As a hippie in 1986 or 1987…
It was just another long grey day in San Francisco. One in a stretch of many.
We had no where we had to be, no one we had to see. The extent of our responsibilities was to get properly stoned.
We could wander down to the Haight and straggle around with the usual bunch, standing on the corner of Haight and Schrader, or go down to the Panhandle to get stoned. We could go for a walk in the Park. That always made for a nice day.
We’d emerge from 2332A Fulton St’s door, cross the busy street, pass the bus stop and plunge into Golden Gate Park. We’d go straight in for a while then start aiming West. A whole day could be enjoyed walking on paths, lounging in meadows, watching geese and tourists, scrambling on or under or around statues and carvings and bridges, eventually reaching the beach if we’d been industrious in our journeying, or popping out whenever we got tired and hopping a bus back to the house.
But today was too grey and misty for a day in the park.
For a lark we decided to go to Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s where all the locals are expected to take their visitors. We’d go tourist watching, maybe get some Ghirardelli chocolates or perhaps some seafood, depending on how indulgently rich we felt ourselves to be at the moment we looked upon the fried crabs.
We were quite stoned and giggling along taking in the sights when it started to downpour. We ducked into the nearest alcove and saw that it was an art gallery. We fluffed our selves up a bit and decided to play curious tourist as opposed to jaded and wet hippies just trying to get out of the weather. It was an actual quick conversation. Do we go in? We knew we weren’t wanted; stoned, disheveled, wet, happy. It’s raining awfully hard.
“I shall be a tourist.” I said as I swung open the door and strode through.
I think I lost my breath for a moment. It was an striking little space, maybe 1,000 square feet, if that. The overall tone was a tad somber, the walls were rich and luxurious, the flooring silent. Rain streamed down the window adding a flickering quality to the elegant ambiance.
But what took my breath away were the statues. Spaced around the room on pedestals and long tables were sinewy women in retro outfits of high society’s yesteryears or the garb of ancient history. Each stood twelve or 15” high and seemed to shine.
From one to the next I moved, transfixed by the subtle details that brought these images to life. The drape of a gathered garment, the bend of a leg, hint of a shoe. Peacocks and leopard women, sirens and goddesses and one I had to imagine was the Statue of Liberty in her alone time. And some of these sensuous beauties were men! The beaded hairpieces, exotic faces, and the colors so vibrant they seared into my stoned brain.
I had just met Erté and I was awestruck.
Nothing was in that room but myself and thirty or so Erté bronzes.
The rain stopped. My companions we eager to be on our way and likely so too was the proprietor ready to see us leave but I felt like I was dragged out of there, nowhere near ready to leave.
There’s been a tiny hole in my soul ever since.
Lazy luxurious hippie days filled my time in San Francisco and though I told myself often to go back again and look, I never did.
I’ve never since been in a place with a real Erté bronze.