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Boston suspects’ family story a portrait of faded American dream

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Seven years after Ruslan began his U.S. adventure, Anzor and family — they now had two sons and two daughters — left Central Asia and settled in Cambridge, where they had friends. Within four days of landing in their new world, Anzor was busy fixing cars. He told his brother he was making $10 an hour, even $100 a day — almost inconceivable money to a newcomer from Russia.

"He was excited," Ruslan recalled. "He loved it."

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In Cambridge, both boys attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a public school with students from dozens of countries. Classmates portray Tamerlan and Dzhokhar — known as "Jahar" — as fun guys who soaked up American pop culture and hung out with kids from sons of Harvard University alumni to grandsons of Portuguese furniture makers.

Guive Rosen, 23, who was in several classes with Tamerlan, knew him as "a very goofy kid, a gentle-giant sort of person. . . . He liked to talk, always had his arm around your shoulders." Rosen knew that Tamerlan was Muslim, but that was by no means a defining part of his persona. "It was a very minute detail about him," Rosen said. "He didn’t impose any religious things on you, never talked about it."

When Uncle Ruslan visited Anzor’s family in 2005, he chatted with Tamerlan about his future. The teenager talked about an engineering degree, perhaps followed by one in law.

"He had everything in him for a happy life," Ruslan said. He and Tamerlan took a walk around the neighborhood, and the uncle was pleased to see people all over happily greeting his nephew.

A neighbor who lived next to the Tsarnaev family for five years said the older brother stood out in the early years for his flashy clothes and his devotion to fitness.

"He used to be more dressed like a pimp, kind of Eurotrash," said the neighbor, who declined to be named, for fear of being associated with terrorists. "Trying to be fancy, but cheap looking" in pointy-toed shoes and matched track suits.

The first time Kendrick Ball saw Tamerlan, at a fight in Lowell, Mass. three or four years ago, the boxer stood out in a way that could get someone hurt. "He had on these tight jeans and long trench coat, and a white shirt unbuttoned halfway down, and silver boots," said Ball, who runs a boxing club in Worcester. "I thought, either he’s going to get picked on or he’s a tough . . ."

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Ball watched Tamerlan box and decided it was the latter. He invited Tamerlan to spar at his club. Tamerlan accepted, but when he arrived to fight, he had no trainer and none of the gear boxers wear to protect sensitive parts.

"No headgear, no mouthpiece and no cup," Ball said. When he offered to let Tamerlan borrow some, "He said, ‘No, no, no. I don’t need that stuff. I’m good.’ "

Tamerlan was an impressive fighter with a peculiar style: He kept his hands at his sides rather than up near his face to protect it. "He was cocky," Ball said. Even pitted against a top-ranked fighter, Tamerlan refused to don protective gear until after he was spitting up blood and holding his side.

When he left his family’s third-floor apartment on Norfolk Street, Tamerlan often carried a bulky gym bag and headed to the yard between his building and the neighbor’s. There, Tamerlan often spent afternoons doing dozens of pull-ups, using the arch of a grape trellis as his gym equipment.

The Tsarnaev family was a neighborhood nuisance, said Rinat Harel, a longtime neighbor. She and other neighbors called police five years ago when the two brothers would hold loud parties and drink late into the night in the courtyard.

The brothers were "just obnoxious teenage boys," Harel said, but the father, a short, beefy fellow, was a constant irritant who regularly threw his trash in neighbors’ recycling bins despite being asked to stop, filled precious spaces in this parking-starved city with cars he was working on, and claimed a 10-minute loading zone as his all-day storage space.

"No matter how many times people told him it wasn’t right, he did it anyway," Harel said. "It was the difficult behavior of a bully."

Anzor obtained cars in bad shape, made cosmetic fixes and then sold those vehicles for a profit. Sometimes, when he needed parts, he would show up at Nissenbaum’s Auto, a nearby parts and repair shop.

Several times, workers said, Anzor went into the parts yard to find a bracket or screw and emerged offering to pay a small sum for a handful of items. But employees would see his pockets stuffed. Confronted, they say, he admitted picking up a few other meager items.

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