When I was fourteen, my dad encouraged me to learn the value of the work ethic. I was eager to learn. He brought me to his warehouse in Brooklyn. There in the phantom clouds of the 1970s the intrinsic value of hard work became embedded as I spent every school vacation and free day loading trucks, packing and unpacking. The music of the rusty conveyor belts clanking and clanging, unoiled in the cold Brooklyn mornings, the foreman cracking the whip, the constant hustle required by us all when at work, the delicious hero sandwiches at Sal’s Deli, the lovely Haitian, Jamaican, and Polish immigrants weaned me from being the nerdy, studious, suburban boy into becoming a young man who learned that happiness was inextricably linked to putting my best foot forward; doing the best I could. So many fond memories remain. Amidst a myriad of interesting and comical personalities we were all very hard workers, one had to be; the conveyor belt moved very fast and I’d have too to keep up to get the Jersey runs all loaded in the trucks before the lunch bell rang. We worked, became friends, and grew up together. This motley group of characters wove the vocational fabric of my youth. Really packing, loading, and unloading trucks at an intensive pace here, and being thrown into a work world with so many incredible, diverse people was the best education I could have had at such a young age. I learned the joy of pushing my limits physically and breaking out of my shell. I felt totally in my element there so from age fourteen to twenty-two I chose continually to return to work in the warehouse I’d loved. Well this intro into my world of loading trucks began here.
In 1975 I moved to Berkeley to do my first year college internship teaching elementary school at the Walden Center School. Then in 1979, soon after receiving a BA in social work from Antioch College I began honing down the moving craft as a social worker doing moving work at a sheltered workshop in Palm Desert. Then moving back to the Bay Area in 1980 I pursued my passion for carpentry studying housebuilding at the Owner-Builder Center in Berkeley, and then working as a finish carpenter. Moving homes and apartments filled in the slow periods but by 1983 I had more moving work than I could handle so the carpentry fell away. I immersed myself, heart, body, brain, sweat and zeal into this venue of packing and moving homes. As a former carpenter it was fascinating to see how furniture was constructed and deconstructed, to start to learn of the inherent strengths and weaknesses of transporting all this (and people’s boxed goods) together safely in a truck. By 1983, I already had thirteen years of related experience going back to loading trucks in the warehouse as a boy, but I still had quite a long way to go. But at the immutable core was the fact that I must be honest and responsible to the task entrusted to me.
Moving one’s home, I soon learned was near the top of the list of life’s most stressfull events. I was discovering the joy of helping people at this most vulnerable of times; more so than I felt as a social worker. The gratitude of the people we moved was the greatest reward, as it is to this day!
In 1984, I tried to follow the American dream that “bigger is better”, and so I bought four trucks, changed roles from mover to moving company manager. I sat at the desk and sent out employees. Excitement soon fizzled into frustration. I found that my new role as an administrator led to a waning of the standards I prided myself in-the money came in but the client gratitude was not. By 1985 I realized, that the best course of action was for me to put away the monkey suit and tie, which always felt awkward to me, and put back on my blue jeans, and do what I do the best-bring my New York speed, eye for detail, and what was already becoming an expertise out to every project, by doing the sweating, on the truck, with the guys. And so that’s pretty much where I’ve been the past quarter century or so-inside a moving truck- and taking joy in it even more at this stage of my career.
Continual efforts over the decades to procure top of the line moving equipment, custom design my moving trucks from the drawing board, buy and sometimes build custom made moving equipment all helped (along with the obvious years of dedication to this craft of moving homes) for me to obtain a mastery of this trade by around 1994. It was around this time as well that I started to hear feedback from my clients quite often at how good I was at working in concert with my employees. I hope this is true. I never had any grandiose ideas of becoming a boss, but since this role did come, I hope I’m worthy of the absent presence that , I feel, people best flower from. Turning cacophony into euphony is hopefully a challenge I’m starting to understand. Always being able to learn; dynamically connected to the power of unlearning, of being able to listen deeply, of harnessing human talent and being direct enough to verbalize praise without flattery, of recognizing people’s strengths and weaknesses, and guiding employees to develop their talents and to stay away from areas where they dont have the ability without belittling their self-confidence, of sometimes being the background quiet (or at times the firm and insistent) balance between the creative and receptive seem part of my role these days, as we respire and sweat together every day on our moves. And more these days in the synthesis of the human energies of our client’s wishes, our employee’s heart, adrenaline and mind, I’m feeling more satisfaction in hopefully being the background maestro as the orchestra mostly conducts itself.
About 2001 as the Tibetan refugee diaspora started moving to the Bay Area I became graced with the Tibetan’s kind, gentle, hard-working presence. Having had an affinity with Tibetan culture since the 1970’s we hit it off right away. Mentoring the Tibetan employees on the gross and subtle aspects of the moving craft has been a great happiness for me. Many have stayed on as employees over the long term. And I must say that leading this diverse mixture of refugees, monks, lamas, farmers, teachers political prisoners, and victims of torture has been a tremendously inspiring and heart-warming part of my life, as they continue to mentor me as well in the art of keeping an open mind, and my letting go of my perfectionist tendencies, and as I can see their skill come into fruition, entrusting them more with tasks I would formerly only do alone. Recently when my step mother was dying I had to let go, and the Tibetans did the moves without me. The feedback from my clients was excellent. So possibly in the years to come, although I do have as much speed, strength, and acumen as 25 years ago, if the guys continue to maintain the high standards I demand, I may not go out on every move. My clients and I love my employees, and many have become more as family than employees.
Under the endless sky, in this enigma we call shelter, in this enigma we call our lives, our stories, I hope you’d like to entrust us with moving you into your next home with the one-pointed dedication to your very own, unique needs that you would like when hiring a moving company. Thank you for listening to my story.