I met up with my host Carl in downtown Santa Monica with a mind to play Venice Beach. With temperatures dropping to a balmy sixty with clouds and wind, people were fled home as if from a storm. Very cute. I hung out with a group of three guitarists jamming out in front of an incredible view of the sunset. Those very clouds created a wonderful, multi-textured canvas for the angled light. I didn’t have my camera, but Carl did:
So with the suggestions of those guitarists I went back to Santa Monica to play the 3rd Street Promenade. They had mixed opinions on if I could get away with playing the actual promenade, so I asked the three buskers I saw there. Each sported a large, laminated license with a photo prominently in front. The first I spoke with, a drummer, told me very cynically and defeatedly about the licensing situation. How yes it’s unconstitutional, but do you have the money to fight it? Do you think two million dollars would fight it up to the supreme court? He ranted long and bitter – I make sooo much money out here I just choose to wear old clothes, you know I actually have four homes, no five, in… He told me the security was very unkind around there, that on this night I’d probably run into no problems as they needed the entertainment (all the buskers home from the weather), but was it worth the risk of arrest, a $200 fine and a misdemeanor? Obviously, no.
It’s pretty incredible they issue a misdemeanor for an exercise of the first amendment. Kevin also pointed out that they’d be even quicker to give it to out-of-towners as I’d have to pay and stick around for the court date and thus provide more city revenue. The second busker, Regina Spektor voiced Clare Means very kindly advised against trying the promenade too. The last, a trumpeter, explained his horrible playing to me in his reaction when I went up to him to ask – he was deaf. Now the draconian policy extends only to the promenade itself, however, so many buskers play around the corner from the street, though these mostly suck (according to Carl). I’d have to try to defeat this preconception. That’s a big part of street performing, the initial judgments from associations – homeless hangout, bums nearby, experience with other buskers in the same spot – things I can’t really help.
Well, I got nary a tip in the hour. A few songs in, however, a set of two ladies bringing food down the street gave me one of their styrofoam containers full of pasta bolognese. As I said – associations. But hey, I was hungry, so it certainly helped. Most passersby apologized for their lack of money, with generally cheery and non-disdainful expressions. The Asians looked at me suspiciously, but nothing new. Were it not for a chance meeting I’d declare the whole pitch a complete fail.
Near the end of a song I saw Bridget, from my digital photo class two summers ago, approaching down the street. We double taked and chatted a moment while her father returned from around the corner. He’d passed me earlier. They requested Here Comes the Sun, as the father had attempted learning it often. Now that there was a connection, he felt alright saying, “You have a good voice, by the way.” Funny how that changes thing, hm? They then rushed off to see their movie after an awkward half second where they decided not to tip.
That night at Carl’s I sang him a couple of covers and an original, singing well after the warmup on the street. The coziness of his modern flat with a fake fire to the left and a shag carpet below me made me very happy.
Earnings: $0.00, 1 hour
Song of the Day: Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles