There’s something a bit off about the beater Audi that my uncle has been driving. It isn’t just an old, crappy car. If it had a uniform faded red paint job, it wouldn’t be ridiculous. Instead, it’s mostly red, but with a dark gray replacement panel in front of the driver’s door and some patches on the driver’s side doors where the red has been worn off (I think) to reveal silver primer. Or maybe some doofus in the paint shop was hanging around with a can of silver spray paint that he didn’t know how to aim. It’s hard to really tell. This car doesn’t look great viewed from the right, either, but that’s definitely the direction from which to view it. From the right it just looks shitty; from the left it looks ridiculous.

The really absurd thing about this car is that it isn’t driven by a self-confident individual who sees motor vehicles in a strictly utilitarian light. It’s driven by the family mechanic and gearhead. The rest of us are the ones who as a matter of principle and sheer utility drive cars into the ground: a Continental, a Camry, a Four-runner, two Tercels, some Subarus, a thirty-year-old four-speed Toyota pickup. This uncle is the one who bought a motorcycle, then bought another motorcycle in order to have a “different style of ride.” Along with a bright red Spiderman suit and a thousand-dollar custom leather seat. The guy lives on another planet. He is Alien Uncle.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Alien Uncle has ruined himself with impulsive purchases of luxury consumer goods, always on credit. He refinanced his house in order to buy this crap, then lost his house to foreclosure. A friend from church took him in on an open-ended basis, then evicted him because he couldn’t contain his piles of junk within his own room. He found himself homeless and over 60 on the edge of Silicon Valley, not an auspicious circumstance. Luckily, he found a relatively affordable spot in an eight-way split of a ranch house in a somewhat dodgy neighborhood; I say “relatively” because he’s flat broke and working one day a week on account of the shit economy. (His boss has more decency than most; everyone in the shop who wants work gets work, but there’s little enough that everyone feels the pain.)

Sadly, the old gravy train that he used to ride has left the station for the last time. His mother often sent him money until her live-in daughter and caretaker seized her checkbook in loco parentis. This is no temporary sibling squabble, either. Mom’s dying. Just past 93, my grandmother is slowly but surely dying of bony metastases, pneumonia, dehydration–take your pick, although dehydration while asleep is the most merciful option available. She’s in home hospice at her daughter’s place, where we convened all of her children and children-in law and two of her four grandkids for a death vigil and palliative care derby last week.

Four of these people said their goodbyes yesterday, Alien Uncle among them. The other three left town with substantial goodwill and gratitude from their relatives for helping care for grandma. Alien Uncle left town in the family’s bad graces because he was little more than a useless freeloader who hardly spent any time with his mom. He’s fixing to become utterly estranged from most of them on account of his immaturity and inconsideration over the past week.

The longest period that Alien Uncle spent with grandma after she was discharged home was on the order of two hours, and that was after his sister the caretaker banned him from joining several of us on a dog walk at Headwaters. “Did you come here to go on dog walks or to visit mom? That’s bullshit!” He hemmed and hawed, then went back inside and joined his mother for a scrabble game. On several  other occasions over the course of more than a week he spent significant amounts of time with her, but most of those were while she was still in the hospital. After she came home, he rarely spent more than a few minutes with her at a time before retreating for hours to watch TV in the living room, eat food that usually wasn’t his, or surf the Internet on the family desktop. His sister eventually changed the password solely to keep him from wasting his last visit with Mom shopping for consumer durables and girlfriends.

At one point he used the death vigil as a pretext to follow a pretty friend of the family around the house. Alien Uncle has a long history of stalking this woman at church. He has stalked other women at other churches, too, freaking out one so badly that she left his home congregation. Not even his pastors have been able to get through to him about the dangers of hovering over women. Usually he goes for ladies in their forties, although he has also hovered over women in their early twenties, notably when he showed up unannounced at his niece’s college graduation. Alien Uncle has more interest in ladies than success with them. His longest relationship lasted for a few years in his late twenties, then again in his late thirties, with a friend from church in the Bay Area. His most recent girlfriend dumped him after several months, when he was evicted by his roommate and briefly moved into his car, although she was apparently back in touch with him over the weekend.

As far as we can tell, Alien Uncle thinks that motorcycles are a good way to pick up chicks, but we can’t say for sure. Aside from his age, he looks like the sort of nerd who lives with his mom and can’t get a date because he spends all his waking hours playing World of Warcraft. In fact, he did live with his parents until he was in his late twenties, when his dad died. At that point, his mom, who had been glad to have him around when dad got violent, helped him buy the house that was ultimately foreclosed. Alien Uncle wears a wardrobe that would only appeal to women at Comic-Con: usually jeans from Bi-Mart or Costco along with some goofy-ass T-shirt. One of his favorites lately has been a black T-shirt with a red biohazard symbol and the words: “SOCIAL HAZARD: I WILL NOT CONFORM,” along with relevant biblical references. Only upon the most superficial inspection, however, does his nonconformism have a thing to do with Christianity.

It’ s hard to say whether he thinks piles of unused consumer junk are attractive to women. Regardless, he has such piles in abundance; his storage unit runneth over. A partial list of items that he’s bought:

-At least two motorcycles, one of them allegedly sold recently, along with piles of accessories.

-An F150.

-At least three small George Foreman grills.

-A $1500 bicycle, list price $2500, that he barely rode before selling for cash flow.

-A food-grade vacuum sealer.

-More electronics, cameras and lenses than can be imagined, most of them high-end.

-One or two junk cars that he was allegedly fixing up but that were ultimately removed from his mother’s old property on the Peninsula after neighbors complained to the police.

I don’t think anyone will ever have an exhaustive list.

This very disordered story presumably will not end well. One outside possibility that has been floated by the sister who cut him off from the family computer is that he might find a sugar momma online. This notion is sick but plausible and not financially ruinous for Alien Uncle. Another is that he will be found dead someday, an untold number of days after the fact, buried in a junk avalanche. This notion is sick, tragic and completely plausible. The best ending would be for him to live out his days in a group home for hoarders and shopping addicts, with his finances managed by adults on his behalf and all possessions but bedding, clothing and toiletries held in common. The family brain trust can think of no other way to unclutter his life and keep him from descending further into a materialistic fugue.

He’s planning to check out another motorcycle in Sunnyvale this week. Any way it pans out, it will pan out in the Twilight Zone.

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