Ken had provided detailed directions to his
house. I was expecting a sprawling, ostentatious mega-McMansion,
with a free-standing museum prominently positioned in back. In
reality, he lives on a winding country road in a single-storey home
that’s indistinguishable from its neighbors -- so much so that I drove
straight by without realizing that here sits a shrine. After finally
cluing in to the fact that the house numbers were climbing out of range, I
executed a hasty U-turn and backtracked, pulling into his tidy driveway
some 100 yards back.
The only indication that this might be a special residence was the presence of a recreational vehicle parked under a shelter in the driveway. The RV was big. As in “I could happily live in it” big. A large bear stood guard over it: the animal had been fashioned from a 10-ft tree trunk by a skilled chain-saw artist. But the Schwartz' house is simple and modest. I rang the doorbell, and waited, wondering if where the museum was: perhaps hidden by a stand of trees at the edge of the property?
The door was answered by Ken's wife, Teenie, who welcomed me into their living
room. She’s also an avid collector, not of bottles and whiskey-related items,
but of period hatpins, beaded purses, and flower vases. The pins are everywhere:
jeweled treasures arranged in bouquets to show them at their best.
There is also evidence of old whiskey - a sign here, a tray there, a stray bottle. Ken quickly appeared and lead me through the hallway to his study.
His work room is small – too
small to swing a hand trowel, let alone a digger’s probe. A geriatric
computer running Windows 98 is crammed into one corner. But the scent of glass
was strong and there, beneath spotlights in a converted closet, is a
ceiling-to-floor-display of labeled whiskeys, perhaps 100 or so in total. I was
transfixed momentarily by the array of familiar names and pre-pro artistry, and
had to dwell on a pristine Old Saratoga from Rosskam, Gerstley & Co., of
Philadelphia (distributed under contract by Sherwood & Sherwood of San
Francisco, which is why it graced Ken's closet here: the distributor’s name was
clearly visible along the label's lower edge).
Before I'd had time to absorb all the labels, Ken was flipping switches and ushering me though another door at the rear of his study. I was totally unprepared for the sight before me.
Next: Enter the Temple
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