Must Be the Music: Day Four

It’s interesting the things we do to ‘survive’.

I might have told part of this story before, but when I was an undergrad, I found myself rather bereft of cash monies to put food in the fridge and eventually, when I got one, gas in the car. Someone hipped me to the idea of selling plasma. There was a little place not far from campus; the bus stopped in the strip mall across the street, so it was convenient. I recall hearing that some people received tidy sums for theirs, including a man and a woman who rode the train in from the city; their plasma was so desired, the place sent a car service to pick them up. Rumor was, they each received about $1,000 each time they ‘donated’. I saw the man once; he was in a suit, reading a paper as his blood filled the bag at his side.

I remember going the first time (‘Be sure to get their early; there’s always a line’ — again, I don’t remember who told me, but I remember their advice) and noted that my idea of early wasn’t the same as everyone else’s. The place was packed. My blood was common, one of the type O’s, so I got about $15. However, three times a week was enough to keep me going until I could get a ‘proper job’.

I started arranging my schedule so I was there before it opened; the door was unlocked to get in the vestibule and so I and a few fellow donation-givers would be there, standing and leaning on crumbling walls or sitting on the cracked linoleum floor. There was one fellow who I met early on, who helped me navigate the system — told me how many days I could come, where I could go to cash the checks, and so on. We often walked together to do so, to the bank across the street in the strip mall. He had a cassette Walkman and listened to Billy Cobham.


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We would sit on the cold tile together and he would share his headphones so I could listen too. I was in my Ahmad Jamal phase then, so it worked to pass the time.

When it came to drummers, Cobham was okay in my book but I preferred several others. Nonetheless, at this point I’d gotten past my hard bop phase and was into more contemplative piano: Jamal’s ‘Crystal’ album among others was one that I played often during the jazz sets when I was on WRSU. Sometimes, they made me cry … I can’t say why today, but I suspect I’ll stream this album and envision that hearing it might take me back to that space and the tears will flow again.

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