I was talking to my brother about his plans for the weekend and he told me he was going to a wedding. "Whose wedding?" "Carl’s," he said. "Carl’s?! Carl Carl's?" "Yes." I hadn’t heard his name in years and even if I had, I certainly wouldn’t have associated it with something as conventional as a wedding. He was one of my brother’s best friends growing up. A rare breed, brilliant and shady. Whenever he’d come over, he’d alter something in the house without anyone knowing – he’d draw faces on the eggs in the fridge or move the furniture around. He once shaved a shamrock into the back of his head for St. Patrick’s Day and proceeded to go around asking people if he indeed had a shamrock on his head, and why did they think that was? Once when we were all going to see U2, he made his own concert t-shirts with iron-on letters. The front: “I like U2.” The back: “U2 is Good.” He was always crashing his cars, including some BMW he bought from some random stranger at Constitution Beach for $800. Once when he was in need of a car, my mother actually GAVE him hers, the official reason being he wouldn’t accept any money for installing some of her ceiling fans.
While in college at Northeastern, Carl lived in a huge apartment on Gainsborough Street where he proceeded to stay a decade after graduating. Everyone was welcome. He even befriended Lorenzo, the homeless guy who used to pass out on Huntington Avenue. Once at a New Year’s Eve party, we walked in to find Lorenzo getting down in the middle of a dance circle with partygoers chanting: “Go Lorenzo! Go Lorenzo! Go Lorenzo!” The four bedroom apartment, which he had mostly to himself, became something of a hotel. And it was always full on the weekends. The only drawback to staying there was that Carl, an early riser would blast, at maximum volume, the Gap band’s “Early in the Morning” at 6 a.m. Anyone who has stayed there can attest to this horror.
There are numerous Carl stories, but this is my favorite: One afternoon, he and a group of whomever had stayed there the night before were sitting on the front steps when some man pulled into a metered parking space in front of the house. Apparently, he was going to the Red Sox game around the corner, and as he pumped a couple of quarters into the meter, he mentioned something to the effect that it was “cheapah to get a ticket than to park over theah.” The man’s beat-up beige Subaru wagon was completely filthy. It was clear the he was a painter as there were some dirty old drop cloths, paint cans, brushes and rollers in the way back. Inside the car, there were fast food bags and coffee cups all over the floor, four inches of dust on the dashboard and a cupholder overflowing with change and lint.
Carl, who also had a wee criminal record, broke into the car and rallied his guests to the cause. They removed all of the trash from the car, then vacuumed it out and dusted it off. They folded the drop cloths and organized the tools and paint cans. They even neatly stacked his coins in the cupholder, by denomination. Then they washed the car and shined it up with a shammy, finding the car was white, not beige.
When they finished, they sat up in the third floor window, waiting and watching. When the man returned a few hours later, he walked right by the car three times, he looked up and down the street, probably thinking he’d been towed. He had to read the license plate to confirm that this was indeed his car. He started looking around, probably to see if there were any cameras, then he shook his head, laughed and drove away.