There are hundreds and hundreds of people out there who believe that, secretly, they were David Carr's favorite. And maybe we all were. He had the rare emotional capacity to make each of us his favorite, one by one by one.
The first time I met David Carr, maybe seven years ago, I mistook him for a crazy person. (He actually was a crazy person, in the warmest possible sense of the word.) He was a big guy, and he walked with a hunched-over shuffle, and when I spied his indistinct shape walking towards me from a couple of blocks away I assumed he was a homeless man in a trenchcoat, struggling for each step. The fact that he was a feared and respected media figure at a fancy newspaper always seemed like a wonderful cosmic prank against the existence of stereotypes. Within five minutes of meeting, he was telling the sort of personal stories that most people reserve for their very, very closest friends. Before you knew it, you were telling the same kind of stories. And then you were friends for life. There is a great story in his book about a surprise birthday party for him where everyone wore t-shirts saying "I Am A Close Personal Friend of David Carr," and I have no doubt that everyone believed it, because it was true. If you were friends with him then so was your family and so were your friends and so were their friends. His team grew exponentially. He had a quality that is often attributed to Bill Clinton, that of being able to make you feel like you were the only person in the room when he turned his attention on you. But while Bill Clinton might deploy that quality with insincere motives, David Carr did not. His sincerity was spooky.
If you went out to dinner, he would order a feast. If you ordered one entree, he would order two entrees, and eight appetizers, too many to even fit on the table. He would keep pushing the plates towards you, "Try this, try this. You don't eat pork? That's mine then." Once, when he let me pick the restaurant, I took him to Vegetarian Paradise on West 4th St., with no meat to be found on the menu. After a customary enormous meal, we walked down the block to a diner. "Let's see if they have any real food here," he said. We went in and sat down and he ordered, and ate, a ham and cheese omelette.
If you needed a hug, he would give you a hug. If you didn't feel that you needed a hug, he would still give you a hug. He seemed to know better than you how much you might need a hug. He always hugged, like a man who had come home from war, which in many ways he had. We would talk about sobriety and fighting and love and who was really sharp and who was an asshole. If you needed advice, he would give you advice, and if he needed advice, he would sit there and listen to you give it, even if you weren't sure it was worth hearing. If you needed to be yelled at for being an idiot, he would oblige, and he would sit politely and be yelled at himself, as well. He always had an idea about what should be done, even if he didn't always do it.
It's funny—when someone that we don't know dies, we writers always feel qualified to speak up and tell everyone what we think they were all about. But now that someone I consider a friend has died, I find that I'm not up to the task. I don't know the words that adequately capture the man. He had a family, and his memory belongs to them. David Carr was one of the luckiest men I ever met. In 58 years, he lived at least 158 years worth of life. Everyone who knew David Carr was lucky too. The only unlucky people today are those who never got a chance to know him, because they would have enjoyed it.
Last Sunday, I went to Boston. I went to Boston because David Carr had asked me to speak to his journalism class at Boston University on Monday. Sunday night, a huge snowstorm rolled in. Class was canceled, and so was David's flight, and so was the breakfast we'd planned to have together on Monday morning. Yesterday, he called me on the phone, thanking me effusively for doing very little, as was his way. "I owe you a dinner," he said. "I owe you the nicest, biggest, fanciest dinner you can think of."
You still owe me that dinner, D. But it can wait.
[Pic by Victor Jeffreys]