NOB HILL--The first topic at coffee this morning in the Flying Star was the big truck parked across the street. It had more chrome on it than paint. It was climate-controlled and air-cushioned. The rear wheels were widely spaced. Custom bins, doors, panels, and smoke-stacks gleamed in the early morning sun.
Most thought it had something to do with the movies. I thought the guy sitting at the next table had to be the driver. I couldn't get anybody to ask him about the truck. Finally I asked my alter-ego Johnny_Mango, who is not quite as shy as the rest of us.
I got up and walked over to the man.
"Is that your truck?"
So far so good...now to ask a few probing questions.
"How...uh...where...uh...hmmm... Tell me about your truck."
Howard Elliott looked at me. He was eating breakfast, but was gracious enough talk with me even while the beans of his breakfast burrito got cold and glued themselves to the plate. He was an Art Mover. He moved art objects across the country...a lot of sculptures, glass pieces (including Dale Chihuly's), paintings, etc. He was on his way back to his home in the Denver area.
"Where are you coming from?"
"Well...I started out picking up some pieces at Navy Pier in Chicago." But before he got here he ended up going to New York City, Philly, Memphis, Oxford (Miss.), Houston, San Antonio, Denver (for a day), Vail, and Phoenix. He said he only got home a day or two each month.
He's been a truck driver for 26 years and started this art moving business about ten years ago. He said he taught himself how to drive a truck and that he really identified with Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi in terms of getting started in inter-state truck driving.
Once he delivered a statue of a big bear to Jack Nicklaus in Florida. Nicklaus had bought it in Vail. The golfer had a hard time figuring out exactly where he wanted that big bear to go. Howard Elliott and his two helpers tried this place and that. Finally Elliott looked at Nicklaus and said, "You know if this had been Arnold Palmer this wouldn't have been a problem." Nicklaus the Golden Bear stared at Elliott and said, "What?" Elliott added, "He only likes iced tea and lemonade." They both laughed. Arnold Palmer only lifted iced tea, not bears...his sponsor was Lipton's.
Finally Howard Elliott, a mover--but not a shaker, left to wash something off his truck. It seems that someone had thrown an egg at it during the night. And to an Art Mover, having a spotless truck fully equipped with all the freight-safety ammenities available, is the name of the game.