Ay Te Watcho, Carnal!

My big brother checks out

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: February 11, 2007

Ay Te Watcho, Carnal!

Once again, the warm winds of Aztlan blow softly across the Land of 1000 Dances, perpetuating life, love, and good feelings, this time in a manner that takes the concept of familia to a higher level, as another beloved Brown soul heads towards heaven.

Although it pains me and my familia ever so deeply, and other deep emotional wounds of loss have yet to begin to heal, we once again find ourselves softly taking a step back and saying goodbye to another cherished loved one....

...our big brother Bob.

My brother Bobby left this world recently, taking a big part of my heart with him. I would give it all to have him back, but he only took a part, so I could have some left for the loved ones who hurt, and miss him dearly. He was like that, know what I mean? He always took a little bit, but he never took it all.

"Always save a little something for somebody never know", he always told me.

He was my brother, an assistant father to me, my mentor, my role model, my mechanic, one of my consultants in life, one of my first fans, and as a young kid he was my protector...but most of all, he was one of the best friends I ever had in life after my Mom.

Bobby and my other big brother Sammy were my first exposure to "being cool" as Chicanos growing up in the 1960's during tough times, in tough neighborhoods.

Closer in age, my 2 big brothers were the original "A~team", as my parents struggled to house, feed, cloth, and support 7 kids, occasionally taking in cousins and friends under our family's protective and loving umbrella.

And I gotta tell you, Mi Gente...they were a team!! With my parents being gone a lot working, it was up to Bobby & Sammy to take care of us on the streets of East L.A. and Bassett, California, and no 2 chingones were better qualified in our family's eyes.

Bobby was the team leader. Always going first, always taking chances, always taking risks, always taking the first chingasos in life, making sure we didn't take it as hard as he did.

Don't get me wrong. Bobby had his share of ass whuppings in the streets, as anybody in our neighborhood can tell you was a part of life before tweakers, posers, and shootings. But as the oldest of us all, he learned to give back better than what he got, and was a figure to be respected in the 'hood, even well into his 50's, just driving down the street whenever he came to visit the old neighborhood. Everyody knew him.

Puro Veterano...with a heart.

Back in his day, NOBODY was cooler than "Beautiful Bob," a nickname he earned for dressing so sharp, always combing his hair, dancing with all the girls, and I swear, living in a pair of sunglasses. Like the "Fonz", he never mussed his hair, even after a fight.

As a young kid, I used to watch him strutting off to Garfield High School in East L.A., and later on to Bassett High School in the San Gabriel Valley, and brother, was he clean!

When he thought nobody was watching, he would put on music and practice his dance moves in front of a mirror, seductive ~ romantic facial expressions and all.

Man...could HE boogaloo! (my first lessons in "cool" as I hid in the closet watching him)

I would come home from elementary school and find groups of teenage boys & girls waiting for him in front of our house. He was that popular.

I envied him, big time...but I always wanted to be just like him when I grew up, I used to say to myself.

And...there was always music. His records, his 4 & 8 track tapes, his (pre-boom box days) transistor radios and portable mini-reel to reel tape recorders...nothing was safe from his little brother. The Beatles, The Rightous Brothers, Thee Midniters, Soul, Classic R&B, Oldies but Goodies, Boleros, Latin Jazz, Motown...he gave it all to me, wrapped in a golden tortilla forever!

His clothes...his Pendletons, his dickies, his Sir Guy shirts, his black sweaters & vests, his different color cashmere sweaters with matching socks, his 2-tone pointy suedes and alligator shoes, his Jade East cologne...all of them treasures to be taken when he was gone for awhile!

He and my brother Sammy used to whup me good for taking their stuff, but they would eventually laugh when I would do it again, and would end up giving me something as a bribe not to take their "new" stuff..."brothers to the end" they always said.

Not a bad compromise, I thought...nobody could whup ass like my brothers!

When he was 16, Bobby began a love affair with cars that only ended when his time here on earth did. We all knew he wasn't done yet. Heaven's got them a great mechanic now.

Starting off with classic 1950's cars, he could buff up and customize anything, much to my father's chagrin.

I fondly remember my mother's and my deep struggle to hold in our laughs, as my father came home from work one day, eager to take a drive in his newly acquired red & white, 1957 2 tone Chevy Station wagon, that he refused to drive to work in L.A. because it was so pretty.

In just 2 days, my brothers and their friends had lowered it, pin-striped it, put primer spots on it, tinted the windows, installed a record player and color bar, and put large whitewalls and Pontiac "crossbar" hubcaps on the tires. Being that they couldn't drive it, they just stood around it blasting the music, "looking cool" as it sat in the driveway, and Gente drove by the house.

My father came home and blew his stack! You could hear him yelling at my brother a block away, as my Mom & I were in the house busting up while trying not to let my dad hear us. Bobby did stuff like that !

Being the team leader and always first to take the heat, Bobby took it all, as my brother Sammy was able to snake his way into the house and into his room as to avoid blame.

In contrition, he later on helped Bobby steal it many a night as they went cruising when my father took a graveyard shift job...and he never took off the stuff my father demanded, as my father reluctantly became a lowrider, thanks to Bobby.

As Bobby grew older, he had to have everything, at least once! Trucks, vans, sports cars, racing cars, luxury cars, classic cars, motorcycles, trailers, campers, antiques, electronics, tools, music, clothes...Bobby collected & traded & sold it all, and added a whole lot of friends in the process. He was never money rich, but he worked all his life, knew how to wheel and deal, and amassed a great deal. Who else could leave the house with $50.00 in his pocket, and come home with a different car or truck every month...and still have the $50.00? "I know Gente...I'm good for it," was the only explanation he would give. Although he angered us at times with all the vehicles he acquired but never had room to park them all, we all shared a laugh in admiration at what Bob could pull off when he had his heart set on something. He leaves a vehicle collection that would make Cal Worthington sit up and take notice.

He became affectionately known as "Bullshit Bob" later on in life, because he could talk his way into or out of almost anything. He became a master conversationalist. He could make a deal with the devil and probably come out on top. He made friends with everybody he ever met, and was one of the most difficult people to say "no" to. He was just that good of a charmer... He used to surprise me with the kind of people he knew, the favors he could ask, and the stuff he survived.

He beat cancer. He survived rolling a 10-ton caterpillar earth mover down a steep hill while he was driving it and the hill collapsed underneath him. He walked away from a couple of auto accidents, he survived some heavy hits in street fights, fought serious physical ailments for years, and had more than a couple of brushes with the law that never saw him do any hard time. His nickname should have been "Mr. Lucky."

"Hey...that's the way I planned it...I know people," was always his joking answer whenever his wife, my Mom, or my sisters would scold him for his close brushes with death, the law, or financial ruin...he had 9 lives, my brother Sammy & the homies always said, he always came out on top of a deal...and he always watched out for the family. Despite the chingon he was, my 3 sisters were always able to tease him or scold him, and he always took both with a loving smile, he had become so mellow.

In the end, he used up his 9th life (probably his 14th, as he "knew Gente," remember?), made a deal with God, and took his last ride the way he would have wanted it...surrounded by family and love.

No regrets, no anger, no blame, no enemies, nothing owed. Lots of memories, lots of laughs, lots of lessons learned.

That was Bobby...always so cool!

I will miss you, my Brother. My eyes water, my heart hurts, my soul cries, and I will never forget your smile, laughter, and everything you did for us.

Thanks for being our big brother. I love you, and I will see you again. You know Gente, remember? Count me in, man!

Siempre tu Carnalito,


Robert Lara Sr. leaves a wife, Lorraine, a son, Robert Jr., a daughter, Vanessa, his father, Samuel Arzaga Sr., 5 grandchildren, 3 brothers, 3 sisters, 11 nephews & nieces, 9 grand nephews & nieces, his 2 beloved cats, and more cousins & friends than we can count!

R.I P. Bobby.... you've earned it, carnal !

About Frankie Firme:
Frankie Firme and familias Arzaga y Lara thank the Gente de Aztlan once again for the love, support & condolences. May you all be blessed in kind.

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