Blood Money:
Life, Death, and Plasma on the Las Vegas Strip


Joseph D. Diaz Department of Sociology University of Nevada Las Vegas

[email protected]

Preface And Introduction

When I began this project I had no idea where it would go or the form it would take. I write this note now having finished the text and realizing that it, as all things, needs to be situated for the benefit of the reader. The study began as a “modern” ethnography, using participant observation, of a plasma-buying clinic. I intended to write a colorful, but “classical” ethnography where I find causes, effects, and decipher the hidden codes of the plasma donors and workers. I think I owe this default approach to inquiry to my training as a quantitative methodologist which teaches, within the positivist perspective, that there is a knowable reality. Anyway, I approached this study as I do all of my studies: Intending to find a set of causes and a set of effects that “create” the plasma donor. In mathematical terms, I sought a set of independent variables that combined to influence a single dependent variable (the practice of selling plasma) to occur. I found, much to my own discomfort and fear, that this approach was not the best for this study.

Denzin and Lincoln (1994) speak of the bricoleur who is more adaptable, resourceful and pragmatic than rigid and dogmatic in his or her approach to writing studies. In the early data gathering phase of this study, I had to admit that the “plasma experience” appeared neither homogenous nor easily modeled as a finite and discrete set of causes and effects. When I noticed that my notes, thoughts, experiences, beliefs, and observations regarding my plasma- donating experiences were often contradictory with each other, I realized that my approach needed to be changed. In short, I sought to find a “Truth” which I soon realized does not exist in human interaction and experience (Gottschalk 1998, Denzin and Lincoln 1994, Agger 1991). I tried, therefore, to employ the approach that seemed most appropriate to this confusing, and often self-contradictory practice of selling plasma: The Postmodern Ethnography.

What I seek to explore in this ethnography is how I, a semi-Caucasian, educated, father and husband changes (if at all) by becoming a person who sells my plasma for money. How will my self-perception change? What emotions and feelings do I encounter before/during/after I donate (sell) my plasma? And finally, how does my perception of capitalism change because of my experiences selling my tissue for money? Writing this introduction after the rest of the study has been written allows me to tell the reader at the outset: I do not definitively answer these questions in the study. This is by design because I realized that every time I donated plasma in collecting my data, it was a totally different experience than the previous time. I do not think that I could write a text that definitively answers any set of questions because I am convinced that concrete answers to the plasma-selling experience do not exist.

As was stated, the approach I take in this study is a postmodern and self-reflexive ethnography. Specifically, in this study I accept the postmodern notion that an author can never be truly objective (Agger 1991) nor can the descriptions of events, people, places, and situations be entirely “true”, concretely factual, or objectively representative (Rosenau 1992). Instead of attempting to remove myself (the author) from the study and pretend that my assumptions and interpretations of given events are correct and irrefutable, as one might in a “classic ethnography”, I will instead make my presence in the study explicit and will respond to occurrences and evoke emotions and thoughts rather than try to define a given event or situation. Bochner and Ellis (1996) describe this approach as allowing the ethnographer’s experiences to inspire the readers to consider and contemplate a situation for themselves. Further, the questions I proposed earlier will not be/can not be entirely answered and dismissed at the end of the ethnography. One characteristic of the postmodern piece is that the idea of a true answer to one’s subjective questions is impossible (Gottschalk 1998). Agger explains, “postmodernism rejects the possibility of presuppositionless representation, instead arguing that every knowledge is contextualized by its historical and cultural nature” (Agger 1991, p.117). My ethnography will not try to authoritatively Describe, Define, and Dismiss (Rosenau 1992); it will instead be the product of my subjective responses, my contextual descriptions, and my admittance that I can not truly answer all questions regarding becoming a paid-plasma donor.

Although my ethnography will be self-reflexive, I will not be the exclusive subject. I will certainly describe my accounts and my emotions, but I also recognize that the task of the ethnography is to describe others and not merely one’s self (Gottschalk 1998). I will therefore pay attention to events such as my spontaneous (unscripted) conversations (interviews) with other donors (whose identities have been changed); I will be concerned with the treatment of donors/sellers/victims by clinic workers/phlobotomists/vampires; the process of donating and what it entails; my perceptions of the interactions between donors; the words and phrases used by the clinical vampires to try to turn the attention from money to altruism; and the current macroeconomic situation that compels/causes/allows/encourages donors to sell plasma. My unscripted conversations with other donors replaces as the formal “interviews” in modern ethnographies. When I spoke to other donors, I concealed my identity as a sociologist because I did not want the other donors to feel they were being observed and change their normal routine because of the presence of an outsider. I was especially careful to conceal my identity as an observer to the plasma- clinic workers because I wanted the same careless and often inhumane treatment given to “regular donors”.

Finally, the unusual format of this ethnography needs to be specifically addressed. This ethnography is written as one donating experience, although it is based on many trips to the plasma clinic. This is done because I found that each visit after my first seemed to blend itself into the same experience so that regardless of the day or the number of times I had “donated”, I still felt like a first timer. Also needing mention is the blurring between fact and fiction in certain descriptions in the paper. It is my hope that the “fiction” is seen as a metaphorical tool, and is easily apparent where it is used. I employed this method because, as was said earlier, the clinic left me feeling confused, disoriented, afraid and unsure of myself and my surroundings. In this work I seek to evoke in the reader the same type of anger, frustration, and dark despair that I felt during each and every donating experience. I believe that this will result in some readers being disgusted or confused at the images and mood created; which is precisely the point of using this approach. Kretzmann (1997) in his fine study on the same subject, had similar dark and confusing feelings regarding plasma-donating, which leads me to believe that my fear and loathing in the Las Vegas plasma- donating clinic is not altogether unique or unusual, and that the reader’s wrung emotions in this violent arena are shared (in some way) with the author’s.

With that being said, I now invite the reader into a provocative experience that I hope touches or moves you in some degree as it did me to write it and experience it.

I looked in the tattered phone book for a buyer for my blood. I found two companies in the Las Vegas area that were clinical vampires. That is, I found two companies that were willing to suck out my blood and reimburse me for the product. I indifferently picked one clinic over the other, and called. The plasma-woman on the phone was so sweet, caring, and mother-like that I immediately hated her. Each time she called me “Sweetie,” I wanted to scream at her. I instead asked her about the payment, the location, and what was required to become a seller. She patiently answered each of my questions, and told me before I hung up that I could find a coupon in the current newspaper for an extra $5 for my first donation (not sale, but donation). The last thing she said to me on the phone was “Goodbye, sweetie.” The coupon was, of course, in the help-wanted section. This was not because they wanted “help,” but because people searching in the help- wanted section are probably more desperate than those who read the business or real estate sections of the paper.

I immediately left my apartment, drove west down Charleston Avenue, and turned right onto the Las Vegas strip. I passed places with signs that read “All Nude! All The Time!”, and “King-size beds, adult movies, and hourly rates!”, just what a growing boy needs. I passed casino, and casino, and casino. Money. Glamour. Excitement. Laughter. Sex. I passed them all. Two blocks and a world away I found Stoker Plasma1 . It was a filthy white building with the windows painted black, so that passersby would not see the scores of bodies lined up on tables with bloody tubes sticking out of their arms. I parked my car about fifty yards from the front door. There were many closer spots, but for some reason I did not feel comfortable parking too close to the front door. I think was trying to keep some distance between the clinic and some part of me. I walked through the litter strewn parking lot towards the front door that was about twenty feet from an open trash dumpster. I found that my heart was beating quickly, my mouth was dry, and my hands were slightly shaking. I was afraid. I don’t know what it was that scared me, but I think it was the reality that for the next few hours I would be nothing more than a factory that produces plasma. I tried to think about the kind plasma-woman on the phone earlier that day as I opened the door and fell into Hell.

Through me the way into the suffering city, through me the

way to the eternal pain, through me the way that runs among

the lost. Justice urged on my high artificer; my maker was divine

authority [MONEY], the highest wisdom, and the primal love.

Before me nothing but eternal things were made, and I endure

eternally. Abandon every hope, who enter here (Dante 1980, p.21).

Hell is a place where you neither die nor live, but instead spend eternity in pain and suffering for your sins. I was in Hell, and I was surrounded by the melted faces of the atoning whose sins had compelled their presence in this place. They were all old but some were young. They were all black but mostly white. A young man sitting in a red plastic chair by the front door was dead. He had a large steel hook through each of his eyeballs; both leaked a clear and blood- tainted fluid onto his face. One end of a rusted chain was attached to each hook while the other end of the chain was bolted to the front door. When I opened the door, I tore his bleeding eyes in my direction but the decaying corpse of the young man did not move.

The room I entered would hold about ten or fifteen coffins if they had been arranged neatly on the floor. As I stood at the front door taking in the scene, I observed two rows of hard plastic chairs on my right that were filled with twelve corpses in various states of decay. On my left was a long white counter where two clipboards sat. On one clipboard was a paper sign that read RETURNING DONORS; the sign on the other clipboard said FIRST-TIMERS. FIRST-TIMERS. The phrase seemed to suggested that FIRST-TIMERS were actually THE FIRST OF MANY-TIMERS. I approached the counter and signed my name on the FIRST-TIMER list. There was no one behind the counter, and I was unsure of what my next step should be. Still at the counter, I turned to face the double row of chairs and knew that I would have to sit in the mass of rotted corpses and wait for my name to be called. Fortunately, none of the dead seemed to notice me, or even each other. I sat in the back of the two rows because sitting in the front row meant having a rotting body immediately behind me where it could stab me, or bite me, or choke me, or worst of all, touch me.

I chose a chair near what looked to be the most recently living person and sat down. The corpse’s fresh appearance was deceiving because as soon as I sat next to it, I smelled its death. Death, much like Detroit, smells like a stale room that has a single piece of rotten meat in the middle of the floor. I avoided looking at the corpse, but its smell was too strong to ignore from the close distance. I averted my attention to the walls of the room where several large posters preached, ironically, the beauty of donating plasma. Not SELLING plasma, but DONATING it. I wondered, amused, how many people refuse their payment for giving plasma citing benevolence and the desire, as the posters on the wall said, to save a life. I am not sure of the number who DONATE instead of SELL, but my feeling is that the latter grossly outnumber the former. I was looking at a poster of a happy middle-class family that announced “Donate Together!” when, to my horror, the corpse next to me began to move and make sounds. The loose brown skin on its face and neck shifted and rippled as though it covered a mass of thriving and infected worms that lived just under the surface. The dead body turned its pock-marked face towards me and a thick, guttural sound came from its throat. It then sat motionless and stared at me from a distance of less than two feet. It opened its lips and revealed several randomly placed teeth, black and pitted after eons of decay. It once again made the revolting sound one makes when trying to dislodge mucous from the throat, and I realized that it was trying to communicate with me:


Me- Excuse me?


Me- Oh…. Hello. How are you?

Death- [Obviously lying] I’m good. This your first time?

Me- Yeah. I’m kinda nervous. How many times have you done this?

Death- They don’t let me donate ’cause I got Hepatitis C. I’m just waiting for my friend. He donates every week.

Me- Did you find out you had Hepatitis when you were trying to donate? Did they tell you then?

Death- Yeah. I was in Vietnam too.

He then turned his attention back to nothing and ignored me again. I was confused by his sudden attention and then ignorance of me, and I was thinking of this when a door opened behind the long white counter across the room and a small white woman in her late fifties approached the clipboards and picked up the FIRST-TIMERS list. She called out, “Joseph Diaz.” I stood and walked the twelve miles across the room towards her. I said, “I’m Joseph Diaz; this is my first time donating.” Up close, she had a gentle and caring face and I thought that she must be the kind woman I had talked to earlier in the day. I was starting to relax and told her, “I think I talked to you on the phone today. You called me `sweetie’.” She looked at my face for the first time and, as though she recognized me, smiled and said, “Oh yes. Glad to see you found your way,” and laughed. When she laughed, I saw her teeth and I knew that I was going to die that day. Her teeth were perfectly white and each perfect tooth was pointed like an arrow. Together, they looked like a curved section of a white picket fence, and I knew immediately that she was a vampire.

Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour [the DONOR], and lives the more, the more labour it sucks…[a labourer’s] mere existence causes a relative loss to the capitalist, for they represent during the time they lie fallow, a useless advance of capital [that has]… a vampire thirst for the living blood of labour…To say that the [DONOR] disposed of himself freely [is false]. The bargain concluded, it is discovered that he was no “free agent,” that the time for which he is free to sell his labour-power is the time for which he is forced to sell it, that in fact, the vampire will not lose its hold on him so long as there is a muscle, a nerve, a drop of blood to be exploited (Marx 1867, pp. 342).

She must have seen the recognition on my face because she dropped the motherly persona and became the beast I knew her to be. She quickly scanned me from head to foot and thrust a white folder in my direction. She rudely commanded me, “Read this, every word of it,” and then disappeared through the same door that she had entered moments before.

I did not want to rejoin the masses of the dead, so I stayed at the counter and skimmed the contents of the white folder that held about ten pages of information. It told me what would happen to me that day, what could disqualify me from DONATING, and what the possible side effects of the process could be: dizziness, vomiting, death, etc. The vampire appeared through the door with a stack of red folders that she began placing in a file cabinet that I had not previously noticed. I announced to her, lying, “I’m done reading this.” Without approaching me or looking in my direction she asked too loudly, “What is the last page in the folder about?” She either knew that I had not taken enough time to read every line of every page or she asked every victim this question. In either case I was caught and I knew that trying to lie to her was useless. I responded, “I don’t know, I didn’t read the folder that carefully.” To which she replied, “Then read it again.” I stayed standing at the counter and reread the contents of the folder, paying particular attention to the last page that told me that if I participate in activities that spread AIDS, I cannot DONATE. The vampiress was still filing folders when I told her that I was finished reading the folder. I was expecting her to quiz me about the contents again, but she instead approached me and asked for my driver’s licence or other form of I.D.. She now stood directly in front of me with the white counter separating us. Her head was lowered as she wrote the information from my driver’s licence that would allow me to SELL my plasma. While her attention was diverted to my licence, I studied her and noticed that she had earrings that were shaped like red tear (blood) drops. She also had, on the right cuff of her lab coat, a single red drop of blood.

As I stood at the counter waiting for my licence to be returned to me, a pretty mortician appeared at a doorway halfway between the white counter and the legion of the dead. She called out a name and, to my astonishment one of the dead stood and followed her through the doorway. This happened twice more before I rejoined the group of the dead: A mortician would appear in the doorway and call out a name, a corpse that I thought had never moved from its spot would suddenly stand and drag its decaying flesh through the doorway, which would then close. After my licence was returned to me, I sat again in the chairs reserved for the dead and waited for a human-like creature to appear in the doorway and call me to the gallows. As I sat and waited, I knew that this would be my last opportunity to leave. I knew that after THEY called me through the door, I would have the life sucked from me and I would never again be a FIRST-TIMER. I stared at the front door to my left that seemed inaccessible despite it being only five feet away.

Through the glass door I could see the Las Vegas Strip. The Strip, which is the Mecca of the Greedy and Lustful, seemed to be everything that this place was not. On The Strip, the pretty and the glamorous people slide their money into electronic whores that spread their legs and occasionally scream with desire and cum out a reward for the ignorant. The Strip is the embodiment of THE IDEA of capitalism. On The Strip, the market is a-moral (Smith 1776), it cares only for those who please it by diligently killing themselves. MORALITY, LOVE, COMPASSION, BENEVOLENCE, KINDNESS, CARING, HOPE, and LIFE are all absent in the purist ideas of capitalism (Becker 1976). Everyone becomes wealthy, everyone is happy, everyone is beautiful, and if you are not beautiful, you can pay (through the money you collect from your hard work) to become beautiful. I thought of this as I sat in a product of the REALITY of capitalism: death, loathing, pain, and the ability to sell anything and everything for profit. Anything and everything for money. Anything and everything for anything and everything. WELCOME TO CAPITALISM… WELCOME TO THE STRIP… WELCOME TO HELL…. My dark thoughts were invaded by the words I feared/knew would come, “Joseph Diaz?”

I turned my eyes from my view of The Strip and fixed them on the thin and pretty Hispanic mortician in the doorway as I stood up and raised my hand. She smiled and took me through a door that led to a short hallway. On the right side of the hall were three closed doors; on the left side of the hall were two other doors that were opened to reveal examination rooms like one might find in a doctor’s office. The hall did not end, but turned right fifteen feet from the door into what I assumed was the murder scene. In the split second it took for the mortician to direct me, I imagined her leading me into an examination room, stripping me of my clothes and violently killing me while sucking my thick blood from an open gash in my arm. Instead, she simply said ” Number 1,” meaning, I assumed, that I was to enter door Number 1 and momentarily avoid the autopsy/physical exam that I now realized was part of the dying process.

The mortician and I entered a small room with no chairs and one chest-high counter across the back wall. She carried a red folder that had my name written on it, and directed me to the counter. The counter was stainless steel and had various needles and other medical-type supplies on the left side. When I realized that the mortician was planning to stab me to ensure that I was legally able to die, I nervously enquired about the process and her training:

Me- So, what are we going to do here?

Mortician- [Coyly] We are going to check you for diseases, illegal drug use, and anemia.

Me- We do this by drawing blood?

Mortician- We prick your finger and take a tiny amount of blood from there.

Me- [Trying to stall her and avoid the inevitable] So did you go to college to be a nurse?

Mortician- No. There are a couple of nurses that work here, but not me.

Me- So…. Um…. How did you learn how to, you know, uh… be a plasma worker?

Mortician- A phlebotomist. You just learn it as you go along, or you can take a class. Give me your hand.

My hand was now resting palm-side up on the counter. She put on a face visor that looked like something a welder wears. I was told that this was would protect her in case my blood sprayed in her face. I wondered out loud how hard she was planning to stab my finger if it could “spray.” She cutely laughed and told me to relax while she put on rubber gloves and cleaned the end of my right middle finger with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball. My body tensed as she took out a small blue capsule that looked something like an elongated Tylenol capsule. She twisted the pill and the top half opened to reveal a short needle. “Relax,” she said. I didn’t. She held my finger with her left hand and jabbed it with the stubby needle in her right. My body jerked from the poke, but she held my hand still. She squeezed my finger to make it bleed more and collected the blood with three tiny test tube-like cylinders that I did not see her pick up. She handed me a cotton ball to stop the bleeding that she had only seconds before increased by squeezing my finger. While I was holding the cotton ball on my tiny, but painful, wound, she looked at one of the test tubes under a microscope. When I asked her what she was doing she remarked that she was checking my protein level to see if I had eaten enough that day to DONATE.

The Evil Witch- Now boy, stick your finger out of the cage, I want to see if you are fat enough to eat.

Hansel- [Holding out a chicken bone] Here is my finger, as you can feel I am nothing but skin and bones, and far too thin to eat.

She found my protein level was ACCEPTABLE, and took out a check sheet marked HIGH RISK BEHAVIOUR. She began reading me questions from it:

Mortician- Have you had sex with another man since you last donated?

Me- No

Mortician- Have you had multiple sexual partners since you last donated?

Me- No

Mortician- Have you used illegal intravenous drugs since you last donated?

Me- No

Mortician- Have you had sex with a homosexual man since you last donated?

Me- No

She asked another ten questions and waited for my responses, however, I noticed that she had already marked every response as NO before I had answered the second question. By the time I answered NO to the last question, which was about my exposure to Hepatitis, she had already covered up the filled-out question sheet with another form and was filling out a description of my physical appearance 2 . The last event in this room involved photographing me and affixing the photograph next to a copy of my signature. This allowed them to have a benchmark to gauge my decomposition as the life is continually sucked from me at future DONATIONS. I wondered how the mortician could so casually confront death at all times in her day. I wondered if at the end of her shift she would go home and scrub her naked skin with coarse sandpaper to remove the death that she touched daily. She stabbed and photographed death and was paid for it. We exited the small room and the mortician guided me across the hall to the autopsy room where the dead are examined. I was told to wait inside. “Wait for what” I asked, already knowing the answer. “Wait for the coroner” she indifferently replied. She closed the door and left me standing alone in the cold morgue. I noticed that she had not once looked at my face.

I was in what appeared to be a typical examining room in a doctor’s office. There was a desk with pamphlets and advertisements and an examining bed. On the wall was a poster that showed a living, smiling middle-aged Caucasian couple standing in the front yard of a single family home with their hands on a boy in a baseball uniform. They were all happy and smiling and living because of plasma. The caption: A PLASMA DONOR SAVED OUR GRANDSON’S LIFE. Implicit: DONATE TODAY, MIDDLE-CLASS WHITE PEOPLE WILL BENEFIT FROM IT. Implicit: HOMELESS? POOR? DESTITUTE? DEAD? AT LEAST YOUR PLASMA WON’T BE! THAT’S RIGHT, IF YOU’VE SOLD YOURSELF YOU CAN TAKE COMFORT IN KNOWING THAT YOUR PLASMA WILL HELP ONLY THE BEST FAMILIES IN AMERICA. YOU MIGHT BE DEAD, BUT YOUR PLASMA LIVES ON!!!

As I waited in the cold room shivering slightly, I noticed a red garbage can without a lid sitting on the floor next to the autopsy table. The yellow stickers on the can identified it as MEDICAL WASTE- BIOHAZARD. The container was uncovered and I looked inside at the contents. Inside the can were various internal human organs including a heart, an intestine and what looked like a liver. Also staring out from the can was a single, intact eyeball with a bloody bundle of nerves and veins trailing for several inches out from its backside. Unlike the eyeball, the heart was not removed cleanly. The arteries looked to be more ripped and torn than neatly cut and there was a semi-circular row of punctures in the heart that upon closer examination, appeared to be a bite mark. I wondered which part of me I was going to leave in this room. Was there some part of my body that would have to be removed and disposed of for me to become a DONOR? If there was, I was hoping it would be my eyes: I no longer wanted to see the posters on the walls.

The door to the room opened and, to my horror, in stepped the post-middle aged vampire with the blood drop earrings. During our earlier encounter, she was indifferent to me and seemed to regard me as more of a necessary burden than a supplier of her life. In our private room she focused her attention and gaze on me and I found myself nervous under her stare. She sat in a folding metal chair at the desk and told me to sit on the table, which I promptly did.

Me- What’s next on our agenda?

Vampiress- [While writing in the folder that had become Joseph Diaz] I am going to check your urine and your vitals to see if you are healthy.

Me- Are you checking my urine for drugs?

Vampiress- No, that’s done with your blood. Why do you ask?

Me- I don’t know. I was just wondering what the urine test is for.

Vampiress- Do you want to DONATE today?

Me- [Lying] Yes.

Vampiress- Then you get a urine test.

Me- I have no problem giving you urine. I’m just wondering what the purpose is. Like are you checking for STDs, or some type of infection that shows up in urine?

Vampiress- Yeah, something like that.

I had said the word “urine” out loud more times in that fifteen-second conversation than I had ever said before in my life. She was still writing in my folder when she began a series of questions about my sexual past and health: “Have you always been a man?”; “Do you have anal sex with other men?”; “Have you ever been to Africa?”; “Are you allergic to anything?”; “Do you take prescription drugs?”; “Are you sick?”; “What are your favourite television shows?”; Do you wipe standing up or while you are still sitting?”; “Have you ever found another man attractive?”; “Have you ever had sexual dreams about your mother?”; “Your father’s mother?”; “Have you ever attempted suicide?”; “Have you been in prison?”; “Have you been in prison in Africa?”; “Does it hurt when you urinate?”; “Have you had a tattoo or a body piercing procedure in the last six months?”; “Are you thinking about driving a wooden pencil through my heart to see if it kills me?”; “Can you think of any reason why you should not DONATE today?” I lied and answered NO to the last question, which qualified me for the autopsy.

In no hurry to have the autopsy begin, I stalled by asking the coroner some questions:

Me- So are you an RN?

Vampiress- [Noticeably happy for either a change in examining corpses, or at the opportunity to talk about herself] Not yet, I’m working on my nursing degree. I still have some classes left to take before I can become an RN.

Me- Are you going to UNLV?

Vampiress- Johnson.

Me- What?

Vampiress- [Guarded] Johnson College.

Me- I’ve never heard of that. [She responds by telling me about the long and glamorous history of Johnson College, one of the best non-accredited correspondence schools in the Southwest]

Me- [Sounding impressed, and still stalling] Does everyone here have as much education as you?

Vampiress- No, but there are a few EMTs.

Our conversation occurred while I was getting undressed and then laid on the table. The rapport I thought I had established immediately ended with the beginning of the autopsy, which by now was unavoidable. I lay on the BED in just my underwear with my head inches away from the garbage can full of human remains. She began raping me. Her wrinkled and latex-gloved hands explored parts of my body that neither me nor my wife has ever touched. Her Johnson College trained eyes studied my hair, ears, eyes, nose, mouth, neck, shoulders, armpits, arms, hands, fingers, chest, chest, chest, chest, stomach, (skipped my crotch area), legs, knees, feet and toes. From the moment I entered the room earlier, I was afraid of the physical exam because I am, usually, uncomfortable with strangers staring at my genitals. I was relieved when she skipped over that part of my body in the exam, and I realized that there is no reason one’s genitals would matter in DONATING plasma. Just when I thought I was safe she declared, “Now I’m going to judge your genitals.”

“Dead man walking,” the elderly prison guard announces. The procession, which includes the warden and a Southern Baptist minister, accompany you, the prisoner, to the chamber. The innocent man is strapped into the wooden chair and the wired metal cap is placed on your head. You are left alone in the room. In the chair. In the cap. And dare not breathe nor blink while you wait for the charge that will shove your life from you. You wait… wait… wait… wait… wait…. The door opens and the guards come in, the one with the scar on his chin says, “The Governor called, you have been spared.” You breathe again and thank any and every god you can think of. You will live. They know you are not the Killer. Justice prevails! You hear a phone ring through the open door as you get ready to stand up and walk out the chamber door to freedom. The warden comes into the chamber and says, “Strap him in again, the Governor changed his mind.” Writhing, and fighting, you are forced into the chair and strapped down. The guards again leave the room and close the door as you scream out protests of liberty, freedom, fairness, life, torture, the Bill of Rights, the….

I was still lying on the BED when her cold gloved hands lifted the waistband of my underwear. I wanted to look away, but on the wall next to me was the picture of the happy middle-class family that would profit from my exam. Although they were all smiling in the picture and assuring me that I was SAVING THEIR GRANDSON’S LIFE, I could not help but think that I wanted someone to save mine. She pulled down the front of my underwear with her left hand and began exploring me with her right. She first picked and poked her way through my pubic hair searching for…? Next she carelessly grabbed my penis and spent thousands and thousands of years examining it. She paid particular attention to the tip and the urethra before moving on to my genitals and then making a final assessment of my crotch area in general. She declared, by some standard, that my penis, scrotum, and crotch are the type of penis, scrotum, and crotch that they like to have in their male DONORS. I had passed the autopsy, but I didn’t know if I should be proud of that fact or kill myself because of it.

In accounting for a penal [ECONOMIC] system involving so much torture, these are general and in a sense external reasons; they explain not only the possibility and the long survival of physical punishments, but also the weakness and the rather sporadic nature of the opposition to them…. If torture was so strongly embedded in the legal [ECONOMIC] practice, it was because it revealed truth and showed the operation of power…. It also made the body of the condemned [POOR] man the place where the vengeance of the sovereign was applied, the anchoring point for a manifestation of power, an opportunity of affirming the dissymmetry of [WEALTH AND POWER] forces (Foucault 1979, p.55).

The vampire coroner instructed me to take a small plastic cup into the adjoining bathroom and fill it with several tablespoons of my best urine. I asked if I could get dressed first because I was still naked except for my underwear. She replied, “No, we don’t want you to have a bag of someone else’s urine hidden in your clothes and then fill the cup with that.” Amazingly, at that point her answer was acceptable to me. In other words, I think I was far past the point of being able to be shocked or disgusted by the things I was experiencing. After filling the cup I re- entered the autopsy room still in only my underwear, to find the semi-elderly vampire waiting for me holding a short white stick made out of paper in her right gloved hand. She issued a well-rehearsed command: “Hold the cup of urine in both hands and don’t touch the stick or me.” I thought that seemed a bit unfair considering the amount of time she had just taken while touching me. I tried to ask her what the paper stick tested, but she cut me off after my first word with, “Just hold the cup still.” I held the cup of urine as she dipped the white paper stick into it. Another command: “Now dump the urine into the toilet, flush the toilet, throw the cup in the waste receptacle, wash your hands, and then get dressed.” I followed her orders and re-entered the autopsy room intending to get dressed. She sat at the desk intently staring at the white paper stick and checked her watch every few seconds. I wanted to get dressed, as she had told me to, but I felt uncomfortable getting dressed in front of her. While her attention was on the urine-dampened stick, I tried to dress as quickly as possible. I found myself thinking of an article I had read recently by Henslin and Biggs (1997) where they found that to help the patient (a person who receives an examination of the genitalia) feel more like a PERSON and less like a sexually violated PELVIS, the doctor leaves the room while the patient dresses and undresses, which helps the PERSON disassociate himself or herself from the humiliating procedure. Perhaps the coroner did not leave my room because the dead aren’t PEOPLE. Or because she was not a DOCTOR. Or because there was no concern if THE PERSON FELT VIOLATED. Or, perhaps, to be humiliated and feel violated one must have feelings and emotions and maybe self respect, which I was starting to believe must be absent in one who can endure this process.

Reclothed and standing against the wall of the autopsy room, I waited for my examiner to finish writing in my folder. “So, am I healthy?” I asked. “You can donate today,” was the response. I asked again, “So I’m healthy then?” The casual reply: “I don’t know, I’m not a doctor.” She stood, handed me the folder, escorted me out the door and in the hallway issued the final command of our intimate and horrible relationship: “Go down the hall to the slaughterhouse.” She turned and walked back through the door that led to the open grave, which sat across from the white counter on which rested two clipboards. One said RETURNING DONORS and one said FIRST-TIMERS. I had been a FIRST-TIMER, but I felt that from now on I would be a RETURNING DONOR.

I was still in the hallway that terminated at a swinging door. The coroner had motioned at that door when she ordered me to the slaughter, and I assumed that that was where the final killing was done. Kubler-Ross (1981) found that when confronting one’s own death, there are five stages that one goes through: DENIAL, ANGER, NEGOTIATION, DEPRESSION, ACCEPTANCE. Up to that point in the plasma SELLING process, I had experienced the first four stages as I approached the swinging door at the end of the hall. I had a feeling of acceptance. Fear, but acceptance. I was no longer the person I had been when I parked my grey car in the dirty parking lot. I was no longer the person who approached the door to Stoker Plasma with fear and nervousness. I was no longer different from the decaying and putrid corpses in the waiting room. I was no longer clean. I had been tainted. I had become a whore, a filthy and corrupt whore who is faced with the reality of his absences of self-worth and does not care. As I approached the swinging door to my slaughter, my thoughts were invaded by a buzzing sound that grew louder with each step I took. With red folder in hand, I stepped through the door to the buzzing floor of the slaughterhouse.

The slowness of the process of torture and execution, its sudden dramatic moments, the cries and sufferings of the condemned man serve as an ultimate proof at the end of the judicial ritual. Every death agony expresses a certain truth: but, when it takes place on the scaffold, it does so with more intensity, in that it is hastened by pain; with more rigor, because it occurs exactly at the juncture between the judgement of men and the judgement of God; with more ostentation, because it takes place in public (Foucault 1979, p.47).

I had entered an enormous chamber full of dead and dying bodies being sucked dry by swollen mosquitoes, whose buzzing from host to host was audible in the hallway from which I had just entered. There were six rows of slaughter stations, each row comprising seven tables of victims, for a total of six million deaths in progress at any one point in time. Next to each DONATOR / SELLER / VICTIM / HOST was a filthy white box, on which sat an impossibly large buzzing mosquito. The mosquitoes ranged in size from five to six feet long when their wings were folded back. Those flying from host to host appeared much bigger as their gossamer-thin wings were expanded to carry the blood-swollen bodies through the air. Barely five feet from my position at the door was the largest mosquito in the room. Between it and I was a host that had clearly died many months or even years before. The dead man was wearing a cowboy hat, plaid western shirt, faded blue jeans and scuffed cowboy boots. Had this cowboy not been dead, I might have suggested that he hop on the back of his mosquito and ride it around the room like a bucking bull: YAHOO, RIDE `EM DEAD COWBOY! The mosquito, and the corpse, did not appear to notice me as I stood next to them observing the act. The mosquito, whose exoskeleton was black and shiny, stood perched on the white box with its disgustingly long and hairy legs grasping both the sides of the box and the side of the victim’s table. Its face was concealed behind a plastic welder-like helmet similar to the one worn by the mortician. From the bottom of the helmet stuck a smooth proboscis about four feet in length. The tip of the mosquito’s proboscis was buried in the arm of the cowboy that had been exposed by rolling up the left sleeve of his plaid shirt. The creature sucked and sucked and sucked and sucked until it gorged itself on the thick blood of the victim. It would then hum quietly to itself for several minutes and excrete the digested plasma out of its anus into a plastic cylinder hung by the side of the white box. Still hungry, but not wanting to completely emasculate its host, the mosquito would vomit the used blood back into Wyatt Earp from Tombstone, and repeat the process minutes later. I wanted to crush the blood-swollen mosquito under my shoe, but it was merely doing what came by its nature. I could not hate the parasite, it was, after all, like Gregor in Metamorphosis (Kafka 1979); his transformation to an insect was not his fault. He had become an insect because of the bureaucratic and capitalistic machine that transformed him from a human to a disgusting bug. Besides, I dared not stamp on the feeding mosquito because it was far too large for one person to crush alone.

As I stood in the doorway observing the blood splattered room, I witnessed miracle after miracle. The legion of the dead, which had been further drained by the mosquitoes, now rose from their slabs and walked as the living.

And Jesus stretched forth his hand and called unto the dead Lazerus bidding him rise and walk. From the tomb walked Lazerus who was dead but was now living (John 12:1).

Impossibly, corpses rose from their tombs carrying buckets of their own plasma. They rose and walked at the sound of their MASTER’S voice. ARISE MY CHILDREN… ARISE AND WALK FOR YOU ARE ALIVE WHO ONCE WAS DEAD. Their MASTER’S voice called and they walked as the living. They walked towards the sound of their MASTER, which was subtle, yet strangely audible through the deafening buzzing. It was as clear as it was slight, and when I closed my eyes, I felt (more than heard) the pure serene voice of the MASTER calling to his resurrected flock: KA-CHING… KA-CHING… KA-CHING. His voice spoke in the same language as the slot machines: KA- CHING… KA-CHING… KA-CHING. It was the sound of heaven. Peace. Love. Prosperity: KA-CHING… KA-CHING… KA-CHING. The flock of the faithful dead stared intently at their MASTER as they approached HIS altar and made their offering: a bucket of their own plasma. The MASTER neither smiled nor frowned at the offerings, accepting each indiscriminately: KA-CHING… KA-CHING… KA-CHING. A resurrected corpse set the self-sacrifice on the altar and signed his name in THE HOLY BOOK provided by a Priest to the MASTER. When the name was signed, and the offering accepted, the MASTER poured out HIS blessings unto the faithful servant, who accepted the blessing with little or no outward joy and quickly exited a door on the far side of the room that led to the parking lot.

Here in the slaughterhouse is an altar to the MASTER.

Here in the den of the dead is the killer and the saviour.

Here on the blood-flecked floor walk corpses raised from death.

Here among the engorged mosquitoes is the god of the suckling pig.

Here march Priests, Insects, Vampires, and Morticians.

Here they serve the same MASTER.

Here they each know their role, and divide their labour.

Here among the death and the carnage is a catalyst.

Here is the MASTER.

Here I am humbled, for here I am in the presence of Eternity. All. The MASTER.

Here is the MASTER, and HE is money.

I was startled from my awestruck state by a slight mosquito that had flown up to me and buzzed expectantly nearby as if begging for a drop of blood. The parasite landed directly in front of me and stared at my face. To my horror, it spoke, “Is this your first time?” it asked. “Yeah” I replied, “How could you tell?” It replied in a voice that was unaccustomed to, and does not like, speaking to its hosts, “Because you look nervous. Lay down on that table and relax.” I took the only open table in the first row and lay on my sweaty back with my naked arm exposed to the filthy creature. With surprisingly dexterous legs, the mosquito opened my red folder and read the information written by the mortician and the vampire. Its “hands” were covered with visibly dirty and bloody rubber gloves, and I wondered how much death had touched this pair of gloves that were soon going to touch me. In a gravelly voice dripping with derision it asked, “Are you sure that you have been honest with all of the information you have given to us today?” I lied, “Yes I have been totally honest.” It appeared to neither care about nor hear my response, but instead prepared to stab its mouth into my flesh.

Host- I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but you’ve got blood on your rubber gloves and I don’t want you touching me with someone else’s blood.

Mosquito- [With indifference, while it still prepares to feed] I’m going to change them.

Host- [Several minutes later, after the mosquito has hooked up the plastic plasma receptacle to its anus and appears to be about to pierce me] Look, you still have on the bloody gloves and I’m seriously not going to let you touch me again until you change them.

Mosquito- Don’t worry, I won’t get any on you.

Host- [Terrified, and prepared to leave] I’m sorry, but I’m only twenty-seven, I don’t want to die before thirty from hepatitis or AIDS so your company can save five cents on a pair of gloves. Please change them RIGHT NOW!

The mosquito does not look at me, but instead buzzes away through the swinging door that I entered years before. I had no idea what the creature was planning or what it intended to do when it came back. Had I any self-respect left, I would have picked up my red folder and left through the door reserved for the resurrected. Instead, I sat and stared at my fellow labourers on the production floor, whose product is DONATED to the MASTER in his adjoining temple.

Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour [the DONOR], and lives the more, the more labour it sucks…[labourer’s] mere existence causes a relative loss to the capitalist, for they represent during the time they lie fallow, a useless advance of capital [which has]… a vampire thirst for the living blood of labour….To say that the [DONOR] disposed of himself freely [is false]. The bargain concluded, it is discovered that he was no “free agent,” that the time for which he is free to sell his labour-power is the time for which he is forced to sell it, that in fact the vampire will not lose its hold on him “so long as there is a muscle, a nerve, a drop of blood to be exploited (Marx 1867, pp. 342).

To my left lies the corpse of what was once an elderly white man. He was close enough to me that I could see the bruises on his exposed arm.

Narcissus- How are you today?

Prometheus-[Bound] If I was doing okay, do you think I’d be here?

I looked to my right and was surprised by what appeared to be a very happy and quite alive man in the land of the dead.

Dante- My friend, what seek thee in the house of the dead?

Virgil- I seek nothing. I come for joy.

Dante- Joy? Among the tortured and broken bodies of those whose lust, passion, and greed in life condemned them to their respective circles of Hell?

Virgil- Aye. We have walked through the Inferno, unscathed before now.

Dante- Truth, but knowledge drove me and innocence protected us. I fear that a re- visit to the horror will claim thy body and thy mind.

It was then that I realized his mind had already left him. He spoke to me, but his answers were not as cryptic as they were thoughtless:

George- So, you don’t need the money from DONATING?

Lenny- No, I have a job. I work for Kenny Rogers.

George- Kenny Rogers? The country singer Kenny Rogers?

Lenny- Yeah.

George- [Skeptical] What do you do for him?

Lenny- I’m one of his assistants.

George- [Gently, trying not to hurt Lenny] Do you work at Kenny Rogers’ Chicken restaurant?

Lenny- [Embarrassed] Yeah.

George- [Trying to make Lenny feel better before he shoots him through the head] Hey, I hear the food there is great, and I hear that Kenny Rogers comes in all the time.

Lenny- [Happy again] Yeah, it’s great and I can eat for free too. And I can have free Pepsi if I want to.

I noticed that the mosquito sucking the retarded Lenny did not have a clean puncture in his arm. Blood dripped off of Lenny’s bent elbow onto his dirty yellow polo shirt, and onto the floor next to his table. His shirt had a spot of blood nearly the size of a pie-tin where Lenny’s life dripped onto it.

George- [Motioning to his bloodstained shirt] It looks like you sprung a leak there partner.

Lenny- [Happily] Yeah that happens sometimes.

The swinging door opened and in came my mosquito, with clean gloves. It buzzed over to my table and held its clean latex-gloved hands up for me to see:

Mosquito- [Irritated] There, is this better?

Host- [With faked sincerity] Yeah, look I’m real sorry about that. I know you’re a professional and you have probably done this a million times. I’m just new here and I got a little freaked out by the sight of blood on your gloves. I know you know what you’re doing, I’m just scared, that’s all.

Mosquito- [With less tension in the voice] Just trust me, I’m good at my job.

Host- [Honestly] I believe you.

The bug sets about preparing my arm to be stabbed. It swabbed an area about the size of a rotten lemon with a thick brown paste that closely resembled excrement. It carelessly rubbed the area for about two or three seconds and then wiped off the excess excrement with another cotton swab. It affixed a rubber strap around my bicep and instructed me to “make a fist.” It then slapped my excrement- stained arm several times like I’ve seen done in the movies when a junkie is preparing to shoot up heroine.

When I was a child I had problems with my blood sugar and I had blood tests done regularly. I was told on numerous occasions that the vein in the center of the fold in my arm is difficult if not impossible to hit with a needle. I was instructed to always tell anyone taking my blood that the vein two inches to the left is much easier (and less painful for me) to hit.

Host- [Cautiously because of the earlier confrontation about the gloves] I’ve been told that the middle vein that you are touching right now is almost impossible to hit with a needle. The one to the left is always much easier to pierce.

Mosquito- [Sensing a challenge] Have you ever donated plasma before?

Host- No this is my first time.

Mosquito- [Pointing to the “impossible” one] Then we will use this vein.

Host- I’ve never given plasma before, but I’ve had a lot of blood drawn over the years and EVERY time someone tries to get that vein, they can’t do it. It might be easier for you if you try the other one.

Mosquito- [With thick and unmasked sarcasm] Oh, I’m sorry, I thought I worked here and you were the new one.

The tip of its proboscis, which was about to stab into a stealth-vein, was about three inches long and approximately the diameter of a large Chevrolet car. The mosquito, visibly excited at the approaching taste of blood, held my arm with two of its legs and instructed me to “relax,” which I did not do. It slammed its needle-like mouth into my arm and began searching for the vein. It probed and pushed its point in further looking for the vein. Unable to hit the vein it exclaimed, “Shit, your vein keeps moving. Has anyone ever told you your veins move?” It kept searching with the point of its needle under my skin. It pushed further and further until at least one inch of the needle-like mouth was under my skin and still no blood squirted into the tube. Sweat beads formed on my forehead and on my upper lip and I pleaded, “I don’t think you can get that vein. Maybe you should try the other one.” It replied, “I’ll get it, just hold on.” It pushed its needle in further under my skin and probed for the vein. This painful search went on for several hours until, with the needle embedded all the way into my arm up to the point it becomes tubing, it struck blood. Blood squirted into the tubing, and the victorious mosquito announced, “There, I told you I would get it. It wouldn’t have been so bad if your veins didn’t move, but that’s not my fault.” I did not respond but instead tried to breathe deeply, relax, and restrained myself from pulling its needle out of my arm, breaking it off and stabbing the creature’s eyes out with it.

It took the elastic strap off of my arm and began to suck out my blood. I watched my blood travel up through the tubing into the creature’s mouth. It continued to suck for several minutes until it had its fill. It then began swishing my blood around in its mouth in a sickening “whirring” sound that took all of the creature’s attention. Soon, my blood had been raped and pillaged and the creature somehow swallowed some of it and spit the rest back into my arm. After the violated blood re-entered my arm the bug went silent for a moment, but then began grunting and moaning as it crapped my plasma out of its thin and dirty rectum into a plastic jug. The jug had graduated marks on it that measured the amount of plasma stolen from me, and I wondered how much would be taken out. When the bug finished its first course and began sucking again, the jug measured 200… 200 what? I did not want to disturb my mosquito so I asked another mosquito flying by how much of my plasma would be removed:

Me- Excuse me, how much plasma do I have to give?

Passing Mosquito- 750.

Me- 750 what? 750 millilitres, CCs, pints, quarts, gallons, what?

Passing Mosquito- [Walking away] 750 of plasma.

What ever the unit of measure, I was more than a quarter of the way there with one cycle. My mosquito was already chewing and sloshing another mouthful of my blood, and in several minutes it vomited it back into my arm and began to defecate it out. I watched the volume climb to 210… 230… 250… 270… 290… 310… then stop! I panicked because I only gave 110 whatevers of plasma the second time! Was this creature swallowing some of me? Was it trying to milk excess labour off of me for which I would not be paid? Would I EVER FINISH THIS PUNISHMENT WHICH I DO NOT DESERVE??!!

My retarded fellow donor to the right stood up and I noticed that he was no longer being sucked. In his right hand he held his red folder, in his left hand he held a plastic jug full of his plasma. I saw that my plasma was more yellowish and clear than his, which looked like a cross between urine, blood, and spit. His shirt had a bright red bloodstain on it that he appeared not to notice. He was smiling as he carried about a quart of his own blood-tainted plasma towards the line of the faithful waiting to bow down before their MASTER. As I watched him and his unending smile, I wanted to cry. I felt an incredible loathing towards this man who was impoverished in both mind and body. I was confused and disoriented: Should I celebrate his independence gained partly through selling his plasma and selling Kenny Rogers’ Chicken? Or should I scream against his PHYSICAL support of an economic system that commodities even the blood of the feeble-minded producers.

Using the very words of political economy we have demonstrated that the worker is degraded to the most miserable sort of commodity; that the misery of the worker is in inverse proportion to the power and size of his production; that the necessary result of competition is the accumulation of capital in a few hands, and thus a more terrible restoration of monopoly; and that finally the distinction between capitalist and landlord, and that between peasant and industrial worker [DONATOR] disappears and the whole of society must fall apart into the two classes of the property owners [PLASMA CLINIC-OWNERS] and propertyless workers [DEAD PRODUCERS OF PLASMA] (Marx 1977, p. 77).

He was but one of many. What would he/they/me benefit from me pretending to be Jesus casting the thieves out of the Temple (the body)? I would scream out unanswerable questions in my rage, “Is there nothing sacred? Are there no ends to which capitalism will not go in pursuit of profit? Is the human body not the most beautiful and perfect creation in the history of the world? And if so, can capitalism see it only as a factory that produces a valuable liquid that can be measured and sold like fertilizer, and grain, and steel?”

Mosquito- That’s it.

Host- [Surprised] What? I’m done?

Mosquito- That’s it; that’s all we’re allowed to take.

All we’re allowed to take. All we’re ALLOWED to take. How much would they take if there were no restrictions on the amount? I don’t know, but my guess is ALL.

Mosquito- [In a recorded voice] Sit up slowly and take your DONATION to the counter, they will pay you/bless you. Don’t take off the bandage for two hours and don’t take it off and throw it in the parking lot when you leave.

The insect signed its name in my red folder and buzzed away without another sound. When it was gone, I realized that I no longer heard the sloshing and gurgling sound of my own blood being PROCESSED. I sat up slowly and looked at my bandaged arm. The mosquito’s crusade to find my elusive vein resulted in a dark blue and black bruise the size of a clenched fist on my stiff arm. I stood up and reached for the jug of my plasma. It felt warm in my hand, like it was somehow not mine. Not mine. It was my DONATION, but it was not truly mine because it had been polluted by the PROCESS of changing it from part of a human body, to a good with a market value. I carried this quantified part of my body in one hand and my thin red folder in the other.

I joined the thriving mass of the disciples of the MASTER who each waited with differing degrees of patience to make their DONATION/offering/sacrifice. There were three other faithful resurrected members in front of me, each with his or her red folder in one hand and plasma in the other. On the floor were multiple wet and dry spots of blood where various waiting members had sprung leaks. On the floor were bright red shoe-smeared blood streaks, the same colour as the earrings worn by the vampiress.

After what seemed to be several minutes, I was next. I approached the altar that was set in the wall near the swinging door. A priest to the MOST HIGH MASTER did not greet me, but instead said one word, “Folder,” which I handed him. He wrote in the folder and looked at me expectantly. I stared back at him wondering my part. “Can I have your donation?” he asked. In my hand, I held what he wanted. In my hand I held something desired by the MASTER. The market wants my production. I am in demand. For a moment, I felt power. I felt that I possessed something that, in a small but significant way, drove the capitalist market that I so frequently criticized. Capitalism relies on the continual production of commodities that are in turn consumed by others who in turn produce other goods that are consumed by others who in turn produce other goods that are consumed by others in the production of other goods that are…. The cycle does not stop unless either consumption ends, which makes production profitless, or production ends, which makes consumption impossible.

The classical theory treats the output of each individual production process as inputs into other processes. This identity of inputs and outputs hold at the aggregate, or macroeconomic, level; it implies that the flow of inputs and outputs must return to its starting point in order to begin again. This circular process involves production and investment decisions by the individual producers [DONATORS], it involves aggregate results of many such decisions [TO DONATE] and it involves the way in which those aggregate results affect subsequent production and investment decisions (Caporaso and Levine 1992, p. 103).

This process, however, was not a single chain that would fall apart if any link decided not to play its role. It was more like an enormous, sweaty and infectious orgy that would not notice if one disgusted member decided to pull out, clean up, put on his clothes and walk away.

I set my offering on the altar and watched as it ceased being my plasma, and instead became theirs. Along with my plasma, I gave the coupon that I had clipped from the newspaper earlier that day, entitling me to additional blessings. The MASTER’S priest picked up my warm jug of blood-tainted plasma and stuck an identifying sticker on it. He placed an exact duplicate of the sticker in my red folder and told me to sign my name next to it, which I did. With all of the solemnity one would expect in such a setting, he approached the MASTER. He placed his hands lightly on the MASTER and typed in a secret oath or combination. The MASTER approved of his combination and opened his blessings unto the priest. The priest removed the blessing and bestowed them upon me unceremoniously. The blessings were folded and placed with my other blessings and tucked into my pants pocket. I did not want to kneel at the altar to show respect, which I did not have for HIM, so I smiled, and to my surprise, said, “Thank you.”

I walked away from the swinging door towards the door marked EXIT. Along the way I walked past table after table after table of whoring dead DONORS who were preparing their offerings unto the MASTER. I realized that I still did not consider myself one of them. They each looked dead and decomposed. They were shells of living people whose mortified corpses could still be milked for a valuable resource. I was not one of them. I could not be one of them. I did not come here to make money to buy food for my children. I did not come here to support a drug habit. I did not come here to pay the rent on a run down apartment. I did not come here to be able to buy a half-week supply of liquor. I was not one of them. I came here not out of necessity or ignorance, but out of curiosity. When I leave, I leave by choice, not because I am physically unfit to DONATE plasma because excessive DONATIONS have made me weak. I am not here because I have no other options. I am not here to DONATE my life to save it. I leave knowing that I will never have to come again, but they will always be here.

I approach the EXIT door, and see the corpse of a beautiful young woman lying on the table closest to the exit. She has a magazine propped open on her tiny breasts. It is People magazine. On the cover is Harrison Ford, who earns $10 million dollars a movie and has just been named “The Sexiest Man Alive.” I wondered what his plasma is worth?

I exited Stoker Plasma and realized that it had become dark outside. Still dizzy from the loss of plasma, I walk slowly to my car. Under my windshield wiper someone has placed a flyer advertising FAST CASH at a local pawnshop. I sat in my car and threw the flyer on the floor. As I turned the key in the ignition, I realized how stiff and sore my arm had become since the tenacious mosquito searched for my “moving” vein. I exited the parking lot and turned right onto Las Vegas Boulevard ?”The Strip.” Looming ahead of me were the casinos bought and funded by greed, lust, and ignorance. I thought I would vomit if I saw a strip club or any reference to the word “money” or “excitement.” I instead turned left onto the highway and bypassed the neon, the lights, the glamour, the excitement, and the illusion of capitalism. I drove away from The Strip near homes, schools, playgrounds, and people. I left the illusion of capitalism, and entered the real world; which is much quieter and less likely to kill you.


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1. The name has been changed to protect the guilty.

2. This is a stark contrast to what Kretzmann (1997) found in his study of plasma donating. In his experience, he was questioned with such seriousness and cynicism by the nurses and doctors that he felt that he was on trial for a crime: She [his mortician] trusted nothing I had said and always seemed to be searching for something she just knew had to be there. I must be abusing some substance or hiding some medical problem; otherwise, I wouldn’t be there. It’s just a matter of tricking me into a confession. I felt very guilty though I had no reason to be… Each reply I made was probed and analyzed. Similar to being cross examined by a sharp lawyer who won’t give up until hearing what she wants to hear (Kretzmann 1997, p. 207).

Copyright 1999 Electronic Journal of Sociology