Ten minutes later…
We pull into the small lot on Geary, outside of Tony’s Cable Car, this narrow, old school, cable car-themed diner.
And Belafonte makes a request, “Driver… Can you… go in… for… me?”
And Driver gushes, “Oh! Of course! Uh, what would you like? A cheeseburger? What do you want on it? Pickles Onions? Lettuce? Tomato? Mustard? Ketchup? Oh, and I’ll get you fries.”
Belafonte, simply, “A cheese-burger. With… Must-ard. And… pickle.” Adding, “And… a Coke. They got… Coke?”
Driver, “Yeah. They have Coke.”
Belafonte, “O-kay. A… Coke. With… a lot-ta… ice… A lot-ta… ice…”
And Belafonte, carefully, mindfully opens his tan leather shoulder bag and begins sorting through a thick wad of bills, before extracting and handing me a fresh, crisp, brand new one hundred dollar bill.
And Driver runs into Tony’s Cable Car.
Eight minutes later…
Driver returns to the cab with a bag containing Belafonte’s cheeseburger and thick cut fries, and a large Coke, with a lot-ta… ice. And Driver returns the $86 change to his passenger, as handing over the large Coke.
But Belafonte slowly grabs the Coke BY THE LID, AT ITS TOP! As he goes, unhurriedly, to place it in his reusable plastic bag ON TOP of a carefully folded up collared shirt and neatly sorted stack of folders.
Driver grabs the Coke, before it breaks open all over Belafonte’s belongings, and the cab, and carefully works it, wedged safely alongside his shirt and folders.
And Driver pops back up front into his seat, with, “Okay! Where to now?”
Belafonte, “680… Webster.”
And we drive.
As we approach Belafonte’s home in the Western Addition, he relays how “There used ta be lotsa killings here, when I moved in.”
Driver, “Oh? I live close by. I know there are some projects near here, and some violence. But it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be. When did you move in?”
Belafonte, “19… 68. After… the Army.”
And in short order, we pull to a dip in the curb in front of Belafonte’s single family home located right at the corner of Webster and Grove. A home nestled in amongst refurbished Victorians, newer apartment buildings, and not far from the Western Addition projects, quite central in The City.
Although quite old, and in no way modernized, Belafonte’s home is well kept and unquestionably worth north of two million dollars, for its lot alone. I do not know how much money the Army is floating him to live on, but on paper, this guy’s a multi-millionaire.
And so, after the better part of an hour chauffeuring Belafonte around, and with consideration of all the time spent idling, the meter still reads a respectable $41.10.
Driver jumps out and runs around to open the door for Belafonte, before grabbing his bags and moving to lay them down over by his front door.
And as Belafonte manually lifts his legs to place them out of the cab, Driver only now takes note of the Breyer Electric insignia on the breast of his neatly pressed khaki jacket. And half out of the cab, Belafonte once again begins sorting through the stack of crisp bills in his leather bag. He carefully extracts three twenties, and then looks Driver in the eye as he hands them over, with a sincere, if not stoic, “Thank… you.”
And as Belafonte canes to his feet, suddenly, a SF black & white police cruiser goes to round the corner, apparently objecting to Driver’s choice of drop location. Just as making eye contact with the young bucks rolling in the cruiser, sans lights or sirens, they decide to stop and blare their emergency police horn.
But Driver, not even considering a move, just barks back,
“Hey! We got precious cargo here! A man WORTH something! We got… a VET!!”
And sans a word, the coppers veer off around my taxi, and zoom down Grove, as Belafonte slowly canes off toward his front door, like a warm southern breeze, an anachronism, blowing at dusk.