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

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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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"Arf!" Lemming
"Arf!" Lemming

"Invisible."??!!  What is this , the SFBayGuardian ?

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