I had very high hopes for Santa Monica. Buskersadvocates.org touted a lively scene and friendly locals. The information must be quite out of date. Jerry drove me over and went off to study in the Santa Monica library and I checked out the scene in Palisades Park, a little strip of green just before the cliff before the beach before the sea. Jerry’s roommate alerted me that the Promenade and Boardwalk both required licenses, which I confirmed with a call to the city with a number from the Visitor Center. With this in mind I set up on a bench at the best possible place in the little park, across from that Visitor Center at a bottle neck where the tour busses dropped off and picked up.
And received almost nothing. Santa Monica’s population boasts a inordinately high proportion of Asians, and the tourists, too are chiefly Asian (Chinese). They don’t tip. The younger ones in their nice kicks and gelled hair and porcelain hide from the sun skin gave confused looks, the older ones put as much scorn into their eyes as possible. I think throughout the entire pitch only one group of young white people spoke anything remotely encouraging. And I think I sang alright.
Three of my tips came silently. The first of these, naturally came from a homeless man who shuffled over and slowly counted out the coins he dropped into my case one with his thumb in a shaking hand, thinking over each dear bit of metal as he considered just how much he could give me. 89 cents. I think I’ve alluded to the parable of the poor woman and her two coppers many times, but oh how that rings true in Los Angeles. Here a destitute man in rags permanently hunched from the suspicious and hateful looks of the rich passersby bequeaths me a large part of his entire livelihood, while high schoolers who are wearing 890 dollars pass by and laugh with each other on seeing me like I’m some monkey like joke.
A very shy woman with dyed red hair took half of Somewhere Over the Rainbow to work up the nerve to tip me, most likely feeling the sharp stinging stares of disapproval emanating from every other passersby. The first notes shook her and the first verse stopped her. She trembled as she passed the dollar but looked in my eyes only a moment. My last tip went similarly, from an elderly couple performing the same hesitant motions and quick birdlike peck of a tip without an upward glance for In My Life. But they stayed for the whole song and tipped me another dollar at the end.
Now the most telling interaction happened just before this couple passed me. A middle aged woman who’d passed me heading south an hour before asked me “Rough Day?” in a mildly sarcastic tone as she passed again heading back, again with a silent college aged Asian (Korean?) boy in tow. Naturally she noticed how the contents of my case looked identical. The rich never fail to look down and find disapproval with the amount. I answered honestly and after some banter where she found out some about me she decided to tip me, though I can’t really call it a tip. She took out some money from her purse, a bunch of twenties and some ones and said sharply, “I’m not going to give you twenty dollars.” with a decrying laugh as if I wanted to take it from her, and counted out three ones. Now I can’t really dislike her as she actually gave me money – I must be grateful, no? But everything about her attitude… ugh it made me absolutely despise the hubris of wealth. “Here I am being so good and benevolent and kind and I want you to know it, yes really know how much it’s costing me and how much pity I have for you, you lower class rabble and your lazy hanging out with the homeless ways and I know this because I have money and I know everything I dont question how I came into this wealth because I deserve it, in fact I’m entitled to it and no you’re not getting any of it but here, here’s three dollars and you be damn grateful.”
I took it. Am I grateful?
Earnings: $6.89, 1.8 hours
Song of the Day: In My Life – The Beatles