Hands down, without a doubt; the funniest, most entertaining, easy going, laugh a minute, fun to be around person I have ever known is Carlos Cruz.
No one ever laughed harder, or more inappropriately than the collective crowd surrounding Carlos Cruz at any given moment, except for maybe Carlos himself.
My sense of humor has always been described as “dry.” I have no idea what that means, but if that is true, then Carlos’s sense of humor must be dripping “Wet.”
We could not be more different in terms of our styles of humor. And that is why I always secretly thought we could of been a smash comedy team. The reinvention of Abbot and Costello, or at least Farley and Spade. I would obviously be the straight man. And Carlos would just be hilarious.
His sense of humor ranged from opportune movie quotes, to spot on impressions, to outright mockery. He was always silly and goofy and he also could be biting and insulting. But his joy and exuberance was so infectious that you couldn’t get mad or hold it against him. The man had a true gift. He could lampoon with impunity!
I kind of want to describe him as a less fluffy Gabriel Iglesias, for more than just the racial stereotype reasons. But honestly he was more like Chris Farley, in that he was actually a shy and awkward kind of guy that simply rose to the occasion when the spotlight hit. He had that same turbo boost of energy that Farley had. That 0 to 60 in 2 seconds flat. And that laugh. He is one of only 3 people I have known who could be a whole room full of people laughing just himself; One is his cousin who may or may not be on this countdown (how we ever made it though a single class with those two in school is a miracle) and the other is my wife, who may or may not be on this countdown (how we ever make it through a single conversation is a miracle).
And here’s the weird and wonderful part. I can’t even recall for you 1 joke or bit he did. It was all just so natural and timely. A million perfect moments that cease to exist into the future as anything more than pure happiness.
Despite his reputation as this life of the party class clown type (and he absolutely was that) he was actually quite shy and kind of awkward. He seized a moment like no body’s business, but for the most part he was quiet and unassuming. He never really tried to bring attention to himself.
I remember watching him compete in the javelin at the state championship our junior year. He was subtle, almost nonchalant up there. Especially compared to all the psyched up grunting and screaming of all the other competitors. No one was suspecting Carlos of roid rage. But he took 2nd place that day and added the 9 crucial points to our Track and Field Team’s total on our way to to the State Title.
I think Carlos and I met playing soccer together. His dad was always the coach. Coach Cruz. Carlos was always a “big kid” with a big leg. “Boot it Carlos! Boot it!” was the crowd’s favorite cheer at our games. Because of his kicking ability and his, uhm, coverage area as a “big kid” he played goalie a lot. I remember Coach Cruz always yelling “pass it to the goalie.” And then the whole crowd screams “Boot it Carlos, Boot it!”
Not to throw him under the bus, but he was held back in school one year just like I was. But there are at least 2 other people on this count down who were held back too. We never talked about it except for once, but I do think that kind of bonded us a little bit. Carlos, myself and one other guy on this countdown were pretty inseparable. We all lived in the same general neighborhood, all the way across town from our school. As an adult with my own kids, I wonder how we never managed to have a car pool together?
The three of us were always teammates for 3 on 3 basketball tournaments. Now Carlos, as I said, was a big boy. But he was quick, and massive on those strong sturdy legs of his. He would go on to be an All state defensive tackle. Still if you looked at him as a basketball player you would expect that wide body would be ideal for anchoring the paint, blocking out, and I can only imagine the screens he could set. I can only Imagine because I never experienced it. Carlos was a soi desant point guard (yes I have used that word twice in 2 posts on the countdown now). He was like the Latino Khalid El-Amin, who led UConn to a Final Four Title in 1999. And not only that, he was ahead of his time. Carlos was a sight to see on the playground. He didn’t back down smaller point guards and over power them at the hoop. No, he bombed long range 3’s off the dribble. Honestly he played a lot like James Harden does now. Only problem was that was 30 years ago. Big dudes dropping 3s wasn’t really acceptable at the time. So Carlos never played organized basketball on a school team. Even so, I always thought had he played school ball, he could of been the Charles Barkley of the southeastern Washington Class B district. But Instead, he was just a street baller, “Playing in the Wrong Damn Era” (props to Pat Chase on that quote. Pat didn’t make the 40 for 40 countdown himself, but he may get another appearance somehow. Stay tuned).
Carlos has the same birthday as another person who is also on this count down, a fact of which I am eternally jealous.
As we reached high school we actually didn’t hang out much. But more than once when I was having a tough time, I showed up randomly at his door and he was the friend I needed that day. And the best thing was he never even asked “What’s wrong? What’s going on? Is there a problem?” “Do you need something?” He was just Carlos, my friend hanging out with me when I needed someone to hang out with me. Whether he realized it or not (and I think he did) when I needed someone the most Carlos was always there.