Walgreen's drugstore on Fillmore Street, where the Fillmore Auditorium and Boom Boom Room crowd splash up against Pacific Heights trust-fund babies and romance-novel millionaires. Where the Joad-faced guy slouches on the real estate news box and murmurs for change, "...spare some change?" not convincing even himself, but keeping at it, a job's a job.
From inside the drugstore, waiting in the checkout line, I see Joad straighten up before the King even comes into view, he lifts himself out of permanent slump, I was never sure he could stand straight but he's taller now than I imagined, and he nods to someone just out of frame, a glint in his eye, something shared, a respect, an understanding, and now at last he appears, the door framing him like a stage, the sun hot behind him, he walks in slowly, majesterially: a tall man with blue-black skin, nose aristocratically smashed flat, a grave countenance, and his crown, red velvet and gold-colored tin, a proper crown, a crown from a storybook, a fairytale crown.
But the man is real enough. And not a laugh, not a giggle, even from the teenage girls cutting school, the way he carries that crown forestalls it; this man belongs in a crown, nobody avoids his eyes like a street-crazy, they look up, into his face, everyone in that store, all of us see him, and lift our heads, the current of his pride carrying us along.
The King of the Fillmore Walgreen's takes it as his due, and goes on about his day.