I Sold My Jew Blood: Professional Control 2 is an excerpt from my first book, Down and Out in California.
I Sold My Jew Blood is part 2 of 2 of the excerpt. For Part 1 please see Smokerlyzer: Professional Control 1
The second study I take part in is a test on Ashkenazi Jews and depression, being conducted by a drug company with the cooperation of doctors. Again I am a control. This time the study involves giving blood. It pays one hundred and twenty dollars.
Again I call in to a number, but this time I get the doctor’s secretary, who succinctly screens me in a New York Jewish accent.
“Yes.” It’s surprising how much this question makes me uncomfortable. I think of the Holocaust class I took in college, and how many generations back one’s ancestry must be of similar ethnicity to qualify for a race.
“Do you suffer from depression?”
She makes an appointment with me. I will only have to visit once, to give blood. I’m glad for that news, and I don’t mind having blood drawn so it seems a good exchange.
The doctor’s office is located on the border of Brentwood and Santa Monica. It’s an older building with stucco walls that looks more like an apartment building or an old motel than doctor’s offices. The different doctor’s offices are connected by outdoor hallways. I climb the cement stairs to the second floor and meet the doctor. He’s the only one in his offices, which consist of a waiting room and three exam rooms.
He’s nervous, I can tell immediately from his shaking hands. I’m not sure why, but I see that I make him so. He’s in his sixties, wearing the white coat, stethoscope around the neck.
“Thanks so much for participating in this study” he says. “Just fill out this paperwork and when you’re ready, we’ll draw your blood.”
“Okay.” I quickly fill out the paperwork and hand it back to him. It asks questions about the Jewishness of my relatives. Many years later I will have a DNA test and find out that I am indeed ninety-eight point six percent Ashkenazi Jewish. Now though, I am wondering how they can take my word for it, or my parents’ word for it, or my ancestors’ word for it. Will they test my blood? What will they test it for? The human genome is still years away from being mapped.
“Good good…. Follow me then, are you ready?” he asks.
“Yup. Don’t worry, I am good with needles” I hope saying this will calm him down, but he just gives a curt smile.
We head into exam room three, which is on the corner of the building and has two windows. I look out to the trees and street below. There’s a Dunkin’ Donuts across the street. The doctor takes out a test tube rack with six tubes on it.
“Am I going to fill all those?” I ask.
“Yes, we need six to do all the testing.” He responds. I note a slight condescension in his tone.
“What’s this for, anyway, why do you need depressed Jew blood, or in my case non-depressed Jew blood?” I ask, somewhat confrontationally, so as to justify the six vials and educate myself beyond his patronizing.
He’s less condescending when actually explaining something “Oh it’s very exciting. It turns out that a lot of how mood and mental health work are determined by genetics. The aim is to develop an antidepressant that treats Ashkenazi Jewish depression, and eventually we’ll be able to develop drugs to treat people based on other ethnic backgrounds, so that we can have more precise control of emotional response.”
I look at him with the squint-eye. I don’t see anything great about that, I’m anti-pharmaceutical in general and am sure that if the people involved just ate better and moved more and had more fun and did more drugs, had more sex, and smoked more weed they’d be unlikely to be depressed. Plus there’s just nothing sexy about the words “precise control of emotional response.”
“But Jews are first?” I ask.
“Figures.” I smile. He smiles.
“We are the chosen ones.” He says, as he ties me off with a strip of rubber just above the elbow. I am wary now, of his shaking hands.
He then proves he is not chosen in any way by very ineptly drawing my blood. He gets the needle in after a couple tries, but has not attached the other end of the tube to the test tubes, so my blood begins spraying on his shirt, the floor, the exam bed where I’m sitting, everywhere, until he yanks the needle out of my arm by the tube. I have a very high pain tolerance, so I don’t yelp, but I am looking at him with great skepticism now.
“I’m so sorry,” he says “it’s usually my nurses who do the blood draws, it’s been a while since I’ve done one. I’ll get it right this time.”
My gut tells me I should stop him, because I realize he could accidentally kill me. I wonder why the nurses aren’t here and then realize it is because he is cheap. Then I’m annoyed with him for fulfilling on a Jewish stereotype. All of this crosses my mind while he’s attaching the test tube to the needle.
He sticks me again in the other arm, this time getting the needle in right away.
He fills the tube and then realizes he hasn’t prepared to switch to one of the other test tubes, so folds the tube in half and has me walk with him to the cabinet, on a blood leash, to get a clamp for the tube. This time it’s only a sprinkling of blood that gets on the floor.
He manages to get through the rest of the five tubes, only spilling a little blood for each. The doctor’s office now looks like a horror film. There is blood on my shoes, and he has some on every item of clothing he’s wearing, including his glasses. He’s all the while profusely apologizing.
He labels the tubes carefully with my age, and the indication that I am a control subject. While he’s doing that, I am staring in disbelief, bleeding from both elbows. I get up and open the cabinet and help myself to some band-aids. He doesn’t even notice that I am doing so.
“Shall we?” he says, pointing to the door.
He escorts me to the waiting room. I am very glad that I will never see this place or this person again, and I’m hoping I didn’t contract any infectious diseases while here. He opens the drawer behind the reception desk and removes a cash box, and counts out one hundred and twenty dollars in cash, and hands it to me. I drive over to The Medicine Man and buy a quarter ounce of weed.
The Medicine Man looks at one of the bills closely.
“There’s blood on this bill, look.” He says, curiously.
“Yeah, I know. It’s mine. It’s a long story.” I say, flatly.
“Can you summarize?” he asks, slowly and with a smile.
“I sold my Jew blood.”
Other excerpts from Down and Out in California: