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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Penelope Houston's "On Market Street": A Song for S.F.'s "Invisible" Street People

Posted By on Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 11:26 AM

click to enlarge penelope_houston_on_market_st_cover.jpg

As its title suggests, Penelope Houston's seven-years-in-the-making new album, On Market Street, deals directly with social issues that confront San Franciscans every day. Given her job as a librarian at the San Francisco Public Library's main branch, Houston -- a former singer for S.F punk band the Avengers -- gets a regular viewing of some of the city's worst-off residents. And it's those same people whom Houston compassionately portrays in the title track off the new album, where she sings, "If your God is great/ And if your God is good/ He would live on Market Street, not in Hollywood." (Read our new print feature on Houston.)

Given how cynical S.F. residents can become -- about the seemingly incurable disaster that is the mid-Market area, about constantly being hounded for change, about the plight of the homeless in general -- Houston's "On Market Street" struck us as a worthwhile reminder of the humanity behind the situation. While one of the new album's most subdued songs, its lyrics make it one of the most powerful. Read them for yourself:

"On Market Street"

This is for the wastrel

Invisible and shamed

Down on his knees on Market Street

His sickness is unnamed

Through the rain he genuflects

His pilgrimage is real

The shoppers with their Christmas lists

Go round him where he kneels

And if your faith is true

And if your faith is strong

You'll enjoy the freedom from choosing right from wrong

And if your God is great

And if your God is good

He would live on Market Street, not in Hollywood

This is for the poor young girl

With her helpless child

Down on her knees on Market Street

For a little while

She needs the cash to swaddle him

Feed his hungry eyes

Maybe enough to buy a room

But she still needs to fly

[Chorus]

Babushka on the corner of

Golden Gate and Hyde

She's too proud for begging but

Tears are in her eyes

A pair of crystal glasses lie

In her withered hands

She offers these and blessings

I pay her all I can

And if your faith is true

And if your faith is strong

You enjoy the freedom from choosing right from wrong

And if your God is great

And if your God is good

He would live on Market Street, not in Hollywood

And if your God is good

And if your God is great

He would live on Market Street

Near Hyde and Golden Gate

----
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