I go up and down Bancroft Way with some regularity on account of our daughter Charlotte’s BFF Jesse lives on 8th just north of Bancroft. A few blocks above San Pablo on Bancroft stands the Butterfly House. Violet trim with a major in butterflies, minors in dragonflies, owls, wind chimes and peacocks.
The visionary behind the house is Olivia Hunter, a retired hair stylist who grew up in the house with her grandparents living next door. She remembers a happy childhood surrounded by family, the overflowing hippie scene in Berkeley, and the fun and excitement of the Black Panther Party’s community-based service programs.
Hunter announced her hope of painting the house purple when her mother was still alive; her mother disapproved, and made sure that neighbors reminded Olivia of her disapproval after she had passed away. The violet trim with pink accents is a compromise, reflecting Hunter’s love of all things pink and purple. This goes a long way towards explaining the pink hair stylist chair on the porch.
At the base of the stairs to the front door is a pot of gold.
Hunter’s grandparents – or was it her great grandparents – hauled a wash tub for thousands of miles as they worked their way to California, hoping that California would be the land of plenty. It has been the land of plenty for Hunter, and so she painted rocks gold to honor the courage and foresight of her family.
Plus on the east side of the house above a purple fence is a sign honoring Dutchess.
The current Dutchess is Dutchess III.
She knows that she is royalty.
As I was finishing this post, my friend came into the kitchen where I was making tea. I could hear the Doors’ “L.A. Woman” playing in his room. He had been going through his photos of Pamela Courson, the last human face that Jim Morrison saw in this life. My friend claims to have met her in Los Angeles in the 1960s at her boutique on La Cienega in LA. Whatever the truth to that claim, he was struck by her trajectory:
“It was a hard time. There were demons and destinies. And angels. Sometimes it was hard to tell them apart.”
I agreed. I poured us both cups of tea from the teapot that I have used since at least high school, and took him to see the Butterfly House photos. I hoped that they would be an antidote to the sadness of Courson and the lost companions of the 60s. It was. He brightened up.