Baton Rouge, Louisiana 2012
My Old Used Carr
It seems to me that it wasn't that my Uncle Carr was particularly nosy, he was just a lone neighborhood watch on Park Avenue. He was almost a century old, ninety-eight. He said that it was his civic duty, sort of like the Lone Ranger and his vision had been to be a Ranger. Said it all started when he was a boy, and he made Eagle Scout, and that he was part Indian. I think, Cherokee, or maybe related to Pontiac. Before he retired, he was a trooper with the state and he really loved working outdoors. Then he moved to a suburban area and was like villager in a town and country.
My memories of Uncle Carr were mostly of the nights when all my cousins and I would dart to his home (unless there was a storm) and we would pile on his front porch for our nightly summit to look at the galaxy for nova, or wait for an eclipse. The evening zephyr would blow through the aspen and set the tempo. He always started his stories by pointing out Taurus in the sky with his great big cutlass that we called the Excalibur, and then he would slice it toward Saturn, the big blade gleaming in the moonlight, taking our breath away. And he would really yell if the neighbor's Audi box (that's what he called radio) was louder than him.
It just seemed that he knew about everything, and we loved listening to his stories about when he was a trailblazer. We would sit silently, the only sound we made was to acclaim our stanza: Jim-my! He had been to Dakota and Laredo on a caravan, and roped wild mustang and rode a wild bronco. We never tired of hearing about his hunting expeditions for cougar, fox, impala, lynx, and jaguar and how crossing the ford near the delta ended up a quest to cope with spiders and super beetles. He told us stories of battles in Granada that always began with a Chevy cry that made chills go through our spines and we believed he was only about the most intrepid person in the world. To all of us, he was a grand voyager, an explorer, a real pathfinder. Our own celebrity.
He said that things were different today and that when he was a boy the fireflies were as big as birds. He even sometimes called them firebirds.
But, the thunderbird of his life happened after the Christmas he had bought Aunt Mercedes a sable coat. She was rather cavalier about it and then on a caprice, she ran off to Monte Carlo with Uncle Carr's sidekick, a courier that was working as an escort. She thought the courier was supreme because he once had been a Samurai. He gave her a diamond ring that looked like a prism and it turned out to be a topaz.
It was classic story. Uncle Carr always told it with a prelude about her being like Cressida, the Trojan woman that was unfaithful to her lover. He hired a tracer to probe into where she had gone, but she could always dodge him. Uncle Carr warned us boys not to let a pickup like her get her talons in us. He said she thought she was Crown Queen Victoria. But, I know he missed her, because when he recalled her legend he talked about her like she was regal, and sometimes he thought he saw her, but it was only a mirage. It turned out that she liked the rover life and made her mark picking up an occasional diplomat, and once a Marquis. She thought he was a regency, like a king.
Uncle Carr didn't hate many things. Maybe just golf and New Yorkers and after Aunt Mercedes ran off, the continental dynasty (that's what he called it). He hated royals.
More than anything, I enjoyed Uncle Carr telling the stories about when he was a boy and his favorite colt pulling him around in his cabriolet. His Pa once let him drive his brougham that was pulled by his prize pinto and he sure got in a fury when Uncle Carr was given a citation for driving too fast. His Pa always said, "That boy will do just what is his own accord."
Uncle Carr never realized how much his stories meant to us kids. He made each of us want to excel. It was really sad that he thought that he had already lived his life and all he had was memories. So, he just talked about the past and quit living in the present. Sure sometimes things are bigger and better in memories, but he couldn't see the broad spectrum of things. I didn't even know it until later that he had altogether quit living. He was the omni to all of us and I thought it was just a bad joke when he called himself an old used Carr.