From the time I separated from my wife to the time I settled into my current townhouse, I moved four times within six months. I was very fortunate that my friends were there for me -- even moving me a few days after Hurricane Floyd (1999) devastated the town I was moving from and there were no truck rentals available. We had a caravan of minivans crawling through the piles of my neighbors' belongings that were destroyed by the flood. It looked like a bunch of soccer moms escaping Berlin after the blitz.
My daughter must take after me, because she moved six times in four years. One of those moves was on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 -- probably not the best time for Arlene (ex-wife and driver of the van) and me to come over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (bridge that connects Staten Island and Brooklyn) in a white, windowless cargo van. A police officer spotted us before we even went through the toll booth -- nothing like having half-dozen police officers directing you to the orange-coned safety area on the side of the highway.
"Step out of the vehicle," the officer commanded as he moved up to the driver's side of the van. As I went to get out of the passenger door he barked, "Only the driver!"
I quickly retreated -- much like my testicles did at that moment -- back into the safety of the van.
A few minutes later we resumed our trip to Brooklyn, and a short time after that the van was filled with Amanda's belongings. Wedged between those belongings, filling the gaps between the dressers and couch, were Amanda and two of her roommates. If stopped again by the police it would have looked like we were smuggling these kids out of Brooklyn.
A year later, with Amanda's next move, we were headed back to Brooklyn, this time with an old nemesis, the monster sofa bed. After double-parking on the street, we unloaded the sofa bed. Four of us slowly carried it up the cracked brick steps and through the long hallway that led to the stairwell. After we carried it, one step at a time up the two flights, and with sweat pouring down my face and only a half-step away from having a heart attack, we stood it on end by Amanda's apartment door. I knew then how the apes felt at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey as they stared in wonderment at the monolith that suddenly appeared before them. I had that same wonderment as I thought, 'how the f*ck are we going to get this thing inside the apartment?'
Eventually I left them there, with the couch stubbornly standing its ground. Later that night, Amanda called and said they were finally able to get the monster inside the apartment.
I guess where there is a will (and alcohol) there is a way.
My niece, Lianna, was moving into a third-floor apartment in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. The Saturday morning of the move we loaded disassembled furniture, dressers and dresser draws (still full), and any assortment of books and utensils and just plain things into several SUVs and headed toward her new place.
As we pulled into the parking area I was surprised that we parked so far away from the front entrance. I asked why we were parking so far away, that it would be stupid to carry everything back to the front door when there was room to park up front.
"Oh," Lianna said nonchalantly, her head nodding toward the building, "we are going in that way."
The back of the brick building did not have a door and when I saw what it did have, I realized I was about to confront my greatest fear.
As I get older, my fear of heights seems to have grown exponentially greater. Even when I watch movies where the characters are on a rooftop or peering over some cliff, I grip the edge of my chair as if the possibility existed that I would get sucked in the forty-two inch screen of my television and plummet to my death.
On the brick wall of the apartment building I saw a three-story, rust-encrusted metal fire escape, like a crooked finger pointed toward heaven. It was not as wide as my shoulders and held in place by champagne cork-sized bolts that looked like they were about to pop.
With great hesitation I picked up a box and started up what I assumed at the moment would be the last staircase I would ever have to climb. With each step, the metal beneath my feet mocked me with tiny creaks and squeaks that made me question my manhood. Once at the top, I turned right, walked across the roof toward the back door of the apartment, went inside and dropped my burden on floor. I then grabbed my nephew, Dante, and told him we were taking the stairs (inside) and would move the rest of the stuff that way.
I continued to move boxes and bed frames the old-fashioned way until I noticed Lianna on the back end of a two-man carry as they moved a dresser up to the apartment. There wasn't enough room for us to switch places so I went up behind her and put my hand on her back to ensure that she didn't fall backwards. When we all got to the top she turned and said, "Thanks, Uncle A.J., for supporting me so I wouldn't fall."
I didn't have the heart to tell her I wasn't supporting her -- I was holding on for dear life.
In the summer of 2012 my sister, Diane, decided to sell her house in Livingston and move to Pennsylvania. One weekend I went to Livingston with my son Danny to help her pack and load our cars and begin the arduously task of moving her life from one place to another. As I stood with my son and two nephews, and looked at the boxes and furniture and stacks of plastic containers that needed to go from here to there, we came up with a unit of measure required to move things.
My nephew, Luke, is one big muscle -- there is not an ounce of fat on his body. His wrestles for his college and is in incredible shape and very strong. So, as we stood there and looked at the items we needed to move we wondered, 'How many Lukes to move that box?'
"Oh, that box? Easily two Lukes."
"The piano is at least a four-Luke job."
"This table is one Luke, no problem."
In time we loaded the cars and headed toward her home in Pennsylvania, with the majority of her belongings waiting patiently for their turn to leave.
Moving is an anxious and exciting time -- uprooting your life, your family, starting over in a new house in a new town, even a new state. With this in mind, I will always offer my help whenever someone has to move.
No matter how many Lukes it takes.