Around the time the czar's armies were falling en masse to German machine guns, Jack Makovsky's grandfather was taking the first steps toward America. Makovsky's grandfather, a conscript in the Russian army, had escaped from the czar's doomed ranks and began a 10-year journey to the United States. That is, right after he braved the trip home to pick up Makovsky's grandmother.
So the story of Makovsky really begins in Russia, a land as frigid and unforgiving as Butte, Montana, where the Makovsky clan would eventually settle and work. Makovsky's parents, as his grandfather had, worked the copper mines of Butte right up until Makovsky "took off" at 17.
Makovsky started doing ironwork: hard but rewarding labor. In fact, it was ironwork that brought Makovsky to St. Paul, Minnesota, where that kind of labor can be particularly perilous.
It wasn't clumsiness, or even bad luck.
"It was winter," says Makovsky when I ask him about the fall. And winter, if you're in Minnesota and walking on a frosted-over I-beam three stories up, can be a real downer. Literally.
"I had to learn how to walk again," says Makovsky of a fall that wound up taking him two years to recover from.
But recover he did. And then some.
After regaining the ability to walk, Makovsky started laying tile for a living, a job for which he discovered a preternatural talent. And to overcome the vertigo that plagued him after his fall, Makovsky took up rock climbing.
In Montana, Makovsky laid tile and climbed and lived. But it seems that, like his grandpa, he knows when it's time to get out of the proverbial Dodge. In December, he hopped on a Greyhound and now you can find him at Metropolitan Market on the corner of First and Mercer. Soon, he plans to start laying tile again.
"Never give up," he says.
I think Grandpa Makovsky would agree.