His shelves were full of old bottles. He still had the milk bottles from his old aunt Weedy who died years ago. She had saved them since the depression, each one filled with small pieces of aluminum foil and tatters of string. You couldn’t find those shelves though because the most amazing things caught your eye. A full- length portrait of his wife by Thibaud, an original Mozart score on the grand piano, the dining room table was a Gaudi. This was the collector of collectors. The whole house was filled, floor to ceiling with art, some valuable, some probably not. There was the traditionally valuable art as I just mentioned. There was lots and lots of early American signage, big wooden signs with images like eyeglasses on them. The weirdest stuff was the tribal art though. Shrunken heads from obscure tribes, nail fetishes accompanied by wild stories. The piece de resistance was the jar of pickled penises. That always “got them”.
How did he live there all these years? More astounding, how did his family, his wife and children, live there? I spent several hours in that house, just marveling, talking, feeling the energy of the place. I liked it there. It felt safe and quirky and very carefully thought out. It shouldn’t have. I asked myself, who is this man? What is this about, other than art collecting or a serious case of packrat. Then I knew. He brought all this tribal art together to save it. He was offering safe haven to the spiritual icons of the world, the ones that others would not cherish. He was protecting them and they were protecting him.