So Passé en Pasadena, Day 1

Jerry figured Pasadena Old Town might be a bit better, seeing as Palisades Park isn’t heavily trafficked and is the de facto home for the homeless (does that make them not homeless?. Roofless. As we drove down the main drag I rejoiced; it looked perfect! People strolling, wide sidewalks, slow car traffic down the middle, shops everywhere, little alcoves for good acoustics. The only thing I worried about was the names of the stores. Rather than South Congress in Austin’s New Bohemia, the stores bore names like Abercrombie & Fitch, American Apparel, Apple Store, H & M. These do not usually entertain generous patrons.

Which defined the pitches. I played somewhere around an hour to the tune of $1.15. The fifteen cents came from a man in a Hawaii shirt who bounced delightedly along for three or four songs as his torn jeans daughter and aviator sunglasses wife roamed the Abercrombie I played in front of. His expression sort of spoke “Dance, minority, dance.” It made me feel like I was on a minstrel show. And that fifteen cents. Seriously. He counted it out. Fifteen cents. That’s how people are out there. Disgusting. I originally intended to expound on their attitudes but I think there’s been enough negativity in the blog recently. So just know they’re the worst kind of people you’ll ever meet; the reason I never want to visit Los Angeles again unless I’m passing through LAX, and the reason I never want to become rich. What if my kids end up like that?

My only other tip from the first go came from a group of barefoot youngsters being young, doing handstands, laughing – like hippies in the best most positive way. They dug my song list, requested three songs, took photos, tried my honey water and liked it, sat behind me to listen etc. A little dash of life in a soul-less place. Naturally they earned us more disapproving glances. That kind of sharp head turn with slitted eyes and a “Get in line, what has the world come to.” just as we smile back at them and wonder the same thing.

The day passed strangely, with these dottings of positivity strewn among long moments of blight. After my increasingly depressing stint I spoke with a sympathetic man with a prosthetic arm who seemed to be documenting the street life. He interviewed me, asked me to sing Hallelujah for him to film after we walked to my new pitch – a brilliant acoustic gem of a defunct theatre front vacated by a street poet, and tipped me five dollars. I’ll let his excellent footage describe our interaction more. Know also that a Chinese woman lingered in front of the ice cream store to the right emotionally (but ungenerously 🙂 ) the entire song.

He bid me farewell and I played a moderately better pitch what with the ethereal acoustics to stop people in their tracks. I exploited them to the fullest, channeling frustration into my slower, more mournful tunes to almost instant effect. A middle aged Chinese woman stopped her brother during Scarborough Fair, tipped a dollar, and demurred from making a request. I sang them Gotta Have You as the first thing that came to mind. She quietly and kindly told me she loved how the acoustics worked with my voice, bowing in a slight particularly Chinese way and a nostalgic smile before leading her silent and antsy brother on. I feel like I helped her remember something beautiful.

With only a few smiles or remotely positive reactions from the appallingly stereotypical So Cal-ers – faces so obviously painted on, dark dark sunglasses, draped midriff and shoulder baring shirts and short shorts, permanent frowns filled with haughty entitled disdain, arms cocked at the elbow to support massive shopping bags sporting photographs of shirtless muscled men, anorexically thin, stilettos – I needed the unusually positive interactions I got. A young man of eighteen, Jonathan, offered me a bottle of water and then requested and sang Mario Kart Love Song with me. He invited me to his church the next day, offering to treat me to dinner afterwards. He gave me instructions and a bit of a break, but most importantly the strength to go on.

Near the end of my pitch a rich black couple wanted a photograph and procured one from a couple of hipstery girls standing nearby. The girls asked if the couple wanted me in the photo and they said yes (note, they never asked me about it). This stop, however, got them to listen to what I sang. While the couple moved along hastily, the two girls chatted brightly with me about the song – Trapeze Swinger. I sang it again with them. One girl knew more lyrics than the other, maybe 10% of them (it’s a looong song), but harmonized very prettily over the recurring “remember me”s.

As if to remind me of the passersby prevailing opinion, however, just before I packed up a dirty man who seemed not too poor to clean up but too rich and lazy chucked a single quarter at the back of the case with a odious dark look on his face. I’m grateful for the young, and for the hope that remains in them.

Another mix of video from the same guy.

Earnings: $10.65, 2.5 hours
Song of the Day: Trapeze Swinger – Iron & Wine

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