Big Al

When I lived in Schenectady we had different neighbors over the twenty years there. The last one just before we left was Big Al. He was one serious piece of work. I’d come home and find him on the front steps silver paint on his face from the can he was huffing. He said he worked at a group home with kids but I don’t think he was ever away from the house that long.
In the evening his buddies would show up and hang with him on the porch. Music banging out from a red Nissan Four Runner and the windows in every house on the block shaking. Sunday morning after the party was over I’d come out and pick up the bottles and baggies from the front yard. I was miserable those months when Big Al lived next to me.
I’d come home every night and there is Big Al sitting on the porch steps stoned out of his mind. He’d say hello to me and I’d say hello back, neither of us very friendly. In the middle of the night I’d look out in my driveway  between the two houses and Big Al’s buddy with the BMW would be tucked up in there out of site and they’d be sitting in the car conducting their business.
Every now and then Big Al and his girlfriend would fight loudly with the windows open, the baby would cry and they’d shout at each other. We’d had worse neighbors for the fighting but these two really set the bar for the drug dealing.

One day a pair of sneakers showed up draped over the power lines going to the house. Pat from across the street took them down and two days later a new pair of sneakers was back up on the wires, this time pink high heeled sneakers. Young kids twelve or thirteen years old would stop by and get their “stuff” from Big Al. He always had a little something for his customers.
Big Al’s friends all wore red shirts and caps like a uniform. The one kid had a pit bull that he would bring just for company. The dog had a nice spike collar and the kid had a tough time keeping him on the leash, but I never saw the dog get loose.
Neighbors would call the cops on the noise and they’d say they couldn’t do anything unless it continued after eleven O’clock when the noise ordinance would kick in. Neighbors would call the cops on the drug dealing but unless someone filed an official complaint they weren’t interested in doing anything more than lending a sympathetic ear. This was around the corner from Steinmetz Middle School (renamed Cities in Schools or some such thing), within site of the signs that say drug free school zone. Those signs were real useful. The Schenectady Police Department was about as useless as tits on a bull.
One Sunday morning after a particularly boisterous Saturday night I came out to a huge pile of garbage in my front yard. It looked like a couple of trash bags had exploded right there. It turned out that Pat across the street had come out early and picked up all the garbage from the night before shoved it in a  couple of bags and thrown them in the open front door of Big Al’s apartment. Big Al’s girlfriend came down the stairs found this mess started crying and went to Big Al who made the assumption that I had gathered all the trash up and thrown it into his front hallway. In his rage he took all the trash and threw it in my yard. I couldn’t blame him for coming to this conclusion because he was aware I wasn’t pleased with him, but I swear it wasn’t me.
Pat from across the street saw what happened and came out told me not to worry he would get it cleaned up since he had caused the issue and told me to take the wife and go get breakfast. I don’t really blame pat for any of this as I was probably thinking of doing something similar to throwing it all in the front door, maybe setting it on fire once I got it in there. I got back from breakfast and Pat is sitting across the street smoking a joint that Big Al gave him after they worked something out. All I really know is my yard was clean again.
Things like this went on for a few more weeks but we saw an eviction notice on the front door of Big Al’s apartment. Then about a month later the final eviction notice was tacked to the front door by the Sheriffs department. I hate to say it but I did find some pleasure in his misfortune.
I had a camera setup that I could use to watch the house while I was at work and the day I saw Big Al, the girlfriend and the baby headed down the street with all their stuff in tow I celebrated. It had been six long months of Big Al holding the neighborhood hostage.
That night I came home and the kids across the street were out front playing basketball for the first time that summer, people were out on their porches and the whole neighborhood felt transformed.
Big Al couldn’t have gone far as they left on foot but it was far enough away I didn’t have to deal with him anymore. About a week later I was out front mowing the lawn and trimming the hedges a couple of young guys about fifteen years old came and sat on Big Al’s porch waiting for Big Al. I let them sit there and went about my business for about an hour. Finally as I finished up I asked what they were doing the one kid told me waiting for Al. I sadly told them Big Al had moved about a week ago. The older of the two griped “how come we are always the last to know”? I smiled and drug my bag of lawn clippings back up the driveway to the garage as they walked away.
Some time in the next couple of weeks the landlord came by with a couple of young guys and cleaned out the apartment. For two weeks they dragged stuff down to the curb and filled it. Six feet tall, two feet wide and thirty feet long two weeks for trash pick up and a couple of truck loads that they hauled away on their own. Every door in that apartment had holes punched in them and I don’t believe Big Al ever took the trash out once while he lived there.

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