Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Nothing about law school

It's that time of the semester again. Nothing interesting is happening. It's the grind. So I'll tell you about my neighbor.

My neighbor is a professional lobster fisherman. Does this sound strange to you, that I’d be living in a house in This City adjacent to a professional lobster fisherman? Yeah, me too. I guess he fishes in the Keys. I should qualify that statement: He purports to be a professional lobster fisherman and there is some evidence of this assertion. The evidence is limited to the following: a lot of lobster traps in his backyard, his wife told us that he is a lobster fisherman and his wife once dropped off six live lobsters on our doorstep. (I ate them all. I grilled them. They were tasty. Florida lobsters are different than lobsters most of us are used to. Florida lobsters have no claws and apparently are closer to crawfish than lobsters. In any case, the tails are tasty when you grill ‘em up. Mmm…..lobster…ok, sorry where was I?).

Unfortunately, it sounds like we live next to an industrial warehouse. I have never seen him preparing to go fishing or doing anything other than pounding away with a hammer on his lobster traps in his backyard, which looks like a construction site. It’s littered with crates, lobster traps, old appliances, tools and auto parts. He has so many tools and building materials that he could probably build a new house back there. He literally would not be allowed to live in a lot of American cities because he’d be in violation of about 1,000 zoning laws or homeowners association regulations. It’s hard to envision when he fishes because I have sometimes been home studying and heard him pounding away on a lobster trap for 8-10 consecutive hours. It gets a little bit annoying. OK, it’s more than annoying. It drives me insane when he spends 8-10 hours a day banging a hammer six times on a piece of wood every two minutes. I estimate that he’s home about 90 percent of the time so I don’t know when he goes out fishing. He often loads the lobster traps onto his van, then drives away, only to come back an hour later and unload the traps. I don’t know much about lobster fishing, but I know an hour is not enough time to get to the Keys and back, not to mention, time enough to actually fish.

Anyway, he is actually a nice old man. I estimate that he’s either about 70 years old or the sea has prematurely aged him. He does not look well. He does not speak a word of English. His wife, a nurse, is very nice. She speaks English. She is about 20 years younger than he is. Both are friendly.

They are not the main source of my problem. The problem is their adult son, who we’ll call Junior. Junior is an obnoxious, loud, inconsiderate, alcoholic, lying, hypocritical deadbeat. He appears to have no occupation because he’s seen at home at all hours of the day and night. Unfortunately, because his parents’ house is small, he conducts much of his “business” on the front lawn, which often involves screaming into a cell phone in the Spanish-English hybrid language that’s so common around these parts. He claims to be building a $500,000 house but that seems doubtful. He tells people he’s involved in his dad’s business but I doubt he has ever worked a day in his life.

He’s a Grade A Loser. We don’t talk much, but I know his type. Junior is the type of person who always has some scheme going and thinks nothing of operating his schemes at any time of day or night. It’s not uncommon for me to be woken up after midnight by the sound of loud voices and noises coming from next door. It’s Junior unloading something or other from a truck. Or it’s Junior and a bunch of friends just having a grand old time in their front yard. Don’t get me wrong – I know people can use their property for whatever they want. I’m not even opposed to my neighbors having the occasional loud party, even one that goes well past my bedtime, as long as it’s an occasional thing. With Junior, however, he exhibits this behavior all the time.

One of the sad things about him is that he walks all over his parents. They do whatever he tells them. I know this because for the first four months we lived here, he kept a pit bull-like dog in the backyard that his parents told us repeatedly they didn’t like or want. But they just shrugged as if to say, ‘Eh, what’re you gonna do. That Junior is such a little rascal!’

This dog was kept outside 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was in a pen on the side of the yard. They never walked it. Ever. Its pen was like a narrow corridor about 10 feet long so it did get a little exercise, but not much. It was a huge dog and had a loud, nasty bark. It would often bark for several consecutive hours for no reason whatsoever. I am not exaggerating. It would often bark for three or four consecutive hours at the top of its lungs, even when no one was in the backyard or nothing was disturbing it.

One day, we were at our wit’s end so we called the cops to complain about the noise and ask them to investigate. It was not a stretch to wonder if something was seriously wrong at that house because the dog had been barking for about four straight hours. I called at 8 p.m. They showed up at about 3 a.m., rang my doorbell, asked me if I called, rang Junior’s doorbell (unfortunately his parents were out of town that night so it was only Junior at home to be awoken) and they discussed the situation with Junior. Junior told the cops to tell me he was sorry. I said to the cops, “bullshit” and the cops chuckled and said to have a nice night.

About a week later, Junior knocked on my door in the middle of the afternoon while I was studying Evidence. He said he wanted to talk about the situation. He reeked of alcohol. This was about 3 p.m. on a Monday. Strangely, even though his house is 10 feet from mine, he had driven from his house to my house and parked in my driveway. Naturally, he left his engine running while we talked. This conversation did not go well. He blamed my wife for his problems because my wife once asked him – in front of his disgusting, skanky girlfriend who is never seen in anything other than a bikini (no we don’t live near any body of water and he does not have a pool) – to take the dog inside. He insisted that my wife demanded things of him that he could never do.

It was obvious to me that he was threatened by having his authority questioned by a woman, even though literally all my wife did was ask him to take his dog inside. She asked him to do something. He heard a demand.

Anyway, so we kept talking for about 20 minutes. I was trying to dumb down everything I said because he is not very intelligent. He promised to keep the dog quiet but said the dog was staying put because his new $500,000 house is too small to keep such a big dog and his parents’ house (the one next door to me) is also too small. Oh, and he also said it was a special dog that cost him about $5,000 and had to be flown in from Spain. I couldn’t help wondering why anyone would pay such a huge amount of money for a dog that had to be stuck outside every day all day for eternity. Why do people get dogs? Isn’t it for the companionship and because a dog is man’s best friend? Or maybe for protection or to show off? Yet this dog never moved from its pen. Ever.

Naturally, nothing changed. The dog only went quiet during hurricanes when it disappeared from the backyard. I don’t know where it went during the hurricanes, but it was gone. This gave me a clue that perhaps, maybe, just maybe, there was somewhere it could live other than the backyard.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving day. If you’ll remember, it was a beautiful day. So the windows were open all day long but as the day progressed, the dog’s barking got louder and more incessant. It had been barking all day long. Finally, we were eating Thanksgiving dinner and I had had enough. I went over to his house, knocked on the door and politely asked Junior to make the dog be quiet. He said, Oh sure, he would. Sorry. Fortunately he was in the presence of his Dad, who berated him in Spanish and about 10-15 other family members who glared at me while I interrupted their Thanksgiving dinner. Of course nothing happened.

Later that night, about 11 p.m., I was trying to sleep but the dog would not stop barking. I went outside to go knock on his door and tell him I was about to call the cops again. He was standing outside on his front lawn talking to a woman. I quietly explained that I was going to call the cops if the dog did not stop barking. Junior promised he would stop barking. I was very quiet and calm. Junior was either drunk, stoned or both because he was very agitated but not angry or mad at me. He seemed agitated in general. He was not fully coherent and kept saying he would get rid of the dog by Monday. I said I didn’t believe him but for today I would hold off on calling the cops. Then I said that every single time the dog barks for more than one hour straight, I would call the cops. Of course this was an empty threat because I could call, but I guarantee the cops would do nothing.

He just looked at me blankly. I went back inside.

Then something incredible happened: the dog was gone. Since a few days after thanksgiving, the dog has been gone. My theory is that he has had trouble with the cops before and maybe has a record as a small-time criminal and that’s why my idle threat to call the cops scared him into removing the dog. I think this must be the proverbial calm before the storm, because every day when I come home, I expect to see the dog. But it’s been a couple of months now and still no dog…


At 8:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy, I'm glad that story hada happy ending. Someday soon, you'll be able to tell these junior-types "I'm a lawyer, don't mess with me."


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