This back-to-the-land hippie train wreck bullshit is even worse than I had realized.

Despite not having set foot in Oregon in over a month, just this week I have had to deal with fallout from Stoner Aunt’s bellyaching to my parents that I had hurt her feelings in an inflammatory e-mail a few days after my departure in which I brusquely explained why I had left town. It seems that she actually flipped her shit and blamed me for telling her that I had consulted with an attorney about incidents that included her husband drinking behind the wheel while I was his passenger and defiantly informing my parents that he would continue to drink behind the wheel when I wasn’t present. In other words, I gave descriptions of crimes that Farmer Uncle had committed against me and a statement that he had made to my parents promising that he would persist in similar criminal activity, and Stoner Aunt was pissed off that I had merely consulted with an attorney and been so tactless and inflammatory as to inform her that I had done so.

That woman clearly doesn’t recognize forbearance on the part of crime and tort victims when it hits her squarely in the face. Instead, she has managed to have me suck on the sour taste of vindication from a distance of seven hundred miles. At first, I merely thought that it would be prudent to formally consult with an attorney, but now I know it for a fact. Just as I had feared, I’m dealing with at least one self-important, blameshifting nutcase who has taken to setting new personal records on the butthurt asshat spectrum of personality disorders and who consequently has to be warned against doing anything stupid on the specious theory that decorum is of no import because we’re all family. Letters asking the disruptive to tone down their shitheadedness because there’s attorneys present don’t always work as deterrents, but the nice thing is that when they don’t, they often serve as convenient DIY honeypots. Unlike Stoner Aunt’s apparent reaction, the language that I used in my e-mail to her was scrupulously professional; it’s a matter of electronic record, and as things stand now there’s no arguing that I have been impertinent, belligerent or coarse in my communications with either Farmer or Stoner.

If I’m not mistaken, we may be on the verge of the point at which I make them look bad, instead of them making me look bad. Stoner stirred up a hearty old pot of shit with my parents and got me splattered on delay when my dad visited me in SoCal over the weekend, but if this shitstorm ever escapes the precincts of our family and its entanglement with our unhealthy relationships, I’m pretty sure that Farmer and Stoner will come out looking a lot worse than me. That has to be one of the reasons that they get so prickly when I formally involve third parties. They really like to operate sub rosa and put their victims in the position of making sputtering, futile attempts to explain themselves and how they were wronged or, more often, of just shutting up in resignation to their assholiness. They do not enjoy being flushed out of their weasel holes and into the disinfecting sunshine. (The kind of sunshine that Farmer Uncle enjoys, of course, is that which is customarily administered as an anal air injection.) They’ll probably be in for an even ruder surprise if I determine that they (or I) could benefit from additional correspondence on these demoralizing matters, because I’m of a mind to send any such correspondence by certified mail, copied to an attorney, and maybe to a cop as well if it concerns Farmer’s drinking behind the wheel. This may sound extreme, but I doubt I can exaggerate what frantic, concerted efforts I’ve repeatedly made to smooth their ruffled feathers, only to have them lash out at me again for no discernible reason, or how many second chances I’ve given them when other people in my position would have disappeared for good without explanation.

There is way that they can avoid this escalation: by backing the hell down and getting a grip on themselves. Reasonable people, I’d say, recognize that the game is over when they receive substantive cease-and-desist letters describing objectionable things that they have done, and, to borrow a turn of phrase that has become something of a trope among and about the abrasive and litigious sort of plaintiff’s attorney, govern themselves accordingly.

But at this point, if Farmer and Stoner really want trouble with me, they can have their fucking trouble. What they’d be wise to understand, though, is that they’ll have it the way I like it, not the way they like it. I’m not a Burger King franchise; they’ve had it their way long enough, and I’m sick as hell of being their doormat. Even in the e-mail that Stoner found so offensive, I used a tone that was restrained compared to the provocations to which I was responding, and I think I made it clear exactly why I was so insistent on cutting off normal contact with them for the time being and uninterested in reestablishing contact unless they could proceed with the introspection and humility that I take for granted with most of my friends and relatives. The point was that the bullshit had to stop, period. That’s why I left Oregon last month, and why I left in May of last year; I saw no other way to ensure that I was spared their jackassery. They’re running short of opportunities to be privately asked yet again to voluntarily grow the fuck up in their dealings with me; if the requests start coming in the form of court orders, it won’t be because I didn’t give them warnings that their behavior was problematic and opportunities to back down.

Four years after I first got the sense that Farmer Uncle and Stoner Aunt had entered a financial death spiral, I’m still learning of new details that put their pathos in an even worse light. The big enlightenment this week was my dad’s disclosure that his most recent gift to them was $15,000 so that, in his words, “they could have a serviceable car.” I gulped a bit when he said this, but then I realized that it explained how they came across the many thousands of dollars that they must have needed to buy the pristine Subaru that they currently drive at a time when they had been running a series of ancient rice-burning jalopies into the ground, apparently because circumstances dictated that course of action. I had been confused as to how they were suddenly able to afford a car with a newish paint job, full engine compression, working air conditioning, and a transmission that didn’t heave and struggle, but now, as Paul Harvey always said, I know the rest of the story. 

Except for the part about why my parents didn’t completely flip out at Farmer Uncle for drinking behind the wheel of a car that they had effectively bought for him. Huh? Legally, in the strict sense of titling and registration, it’s his and Stoner’s car, but they didn’t exactly earn it by the sweat of their brows, unless that sweat was worked up in the course of frantically supplicating themselves for a transportation grant. No man is an island, who has hundreds of thousands of vaguely accounted-for dollars in non-dividend-bearing private stock held by those near and dear to him who happen to be moneyed. (In the Rosshole’s case, formerly moneyed is close enough. And don’t the rest of us know it.)

This is just absurd: my parents basically bought Farmer Uncle a car, after having given him very substantial help to keep the farm afloat, and they don’t have the gumption to tell him that, no, he may not drink behind the wheel, and that’s all there is to it. They have never taken such a resigned approach to my sobriety as a driver. In high school or college, I would never have gotten away with telling them, “Yeah, I think I’ll grab a Tsingtao and take a spin down to Lancaster for the evening.” For much of that time, I was driving a hand-me-down clunker from my dad, so their concern wasn’t that I might damage a $500 Camry that was one year my junior, despite the sentimental value that it held for my dad (my parents were the ones who insisted on buying me a much newer replacement for my 21st birthday). Yet somehow they don’t have the nerve to tell Farmer Uncle, “For God’s sake, we are not going to let you be such a defiant idiot behind the wheel when the only reason you have a reliable car is that we gave you the money for it.”

The big problem here, of course, is that when push comes to shove the only way to follow through on such a demand is to file suit to recover the car money. My parents would be horrified to even consider threatening a suit; my dad feels bad about being hesitant to give Farmer Uncle more money to keep the farm afloat. What my parents appear unwilling to accept is that extreme measures are not necessarily excessive or frivolous ones. They gave Farmer and Stoner the money for that car so that they would have transportation, not so that Farmer Uncle could play chicken with the Oregon State Police and then more or less tell them to fuck off when they asked him to cut it out. They’re both genuinely disturbed by his insistence on drinking behind the wheel on trips of less than half an hour.

But still they’re apparently too scared to grow a spine around him. I certainly sympathize; Farmer Uncle and Stoner Aunt are both exceptionally adept at turning pleasant interactions into hideous ones the moment they’re challenged. My parents’ upside-down deference to an arrogant asshole with pretensions of alcoholism after buying him a car is one of the strongest pieces of evidence I’ve found yet in support of my thesis that Farmer Uncle and Stoner Aunt rule by subtle intimidation of those close to them. Their relatives have a lot to lose by asking either of them to abide by rudimentary standards of decorum and morals. I hear echoes of 1938: “Oh, no, Mr. Churchill, never mind him; he’s only annexing Austria and the Sudetenland. If we don’t provoke the funny guy in the mustache, we will have peace in our time.” Chamberlain sounded a wee bit scared, too.

This is why the police and the DMV keep coming to mind. I honestly don’t know what else will work to convince Farmer Uncle to value the safety of other drivers more than his own fucked up self-image as a country badass with a beer in hand on the Interstate. I think it’s truly damning that he openly defies my parents’ wish that he cut it out when he’s pulling this shit in a car that they effectively bought for him and his wife. The aggression and depravity of this stance are stunning.

Other things came into focus this week, too. My dad told me that he doesn’t know where all his farm investment records are and suggested that maybe the stockholders should take a more active role in farm operations in the future, implying that we have basically abdicated our franchise as investors so far. It’s just as I had suspected: Farmer and Stoner got a shitload of no-cost capital with reduced investor oversight. The only part of my suspicion that I haven’t entirely confirmed is that they manipulated, or perhaps even defrauded, their beloveds to this end. You certainly can’t get terms like that on the New York Stock Exchange.

Eh, maybe on Kickstarter.

The thing my dad didn’t learn until this week was that Stoner Aunt declined unsolicited offers of financial help from friends to cover her out-of-pocket medical expenses and lost income while she recovered from a debilitating workplace injury. Instead, she insisted on going into credit card debt so that she could be independent. She actually told me as much. I vaguely recall her telling me about a total debt of about $10k, although I may have the details conflated with those of Grandma’s credit card debt (which, if I recall correctly, was higher). If I’m in the ballpark, those two fuckers dumped something like $30k down a hole in the form of usurious interest payments so that they could keep up appearances of self-sufficiency, having long pestered their friends and relatives to become codependent–I mean, interdependent–with them by buying farm stock that was of as much investment utility as a boar’s tits. It’s just fucking insane. The cognitive dissonance is head-shattering. They risked our investments by needlessly taking on high-interest debt when they could have relied instead on an extremely effective ad hoc community insurance system comprised of themselves and some of their closest friends.

Pride goeth before the fall. So too goeth the gentleman’s agreement orally amending the terms of the mortgage with a soon-to-be-thrice-divorced philandering train wreck whose debt-to-asset ratio is on the order of 50:1.

These dipshits have taken advantage of friends and relatives for interest-free business capital, then declined freely given, no-strings-attached offers of financial help to cover expenses borne in a completely unforeseen and inadvertent accident because that would, you know, look like mooching. It would also look like an honest capitulation to tough circumstances and humble prudence rather than a minor con on those close to them, and if there’s anything those two hate, it’s not being in control. I can deal with a lack of control gracefully enough, but they flip their shit. Or else, if they’re outwardly serene, they make excuse upon excuse: oh, no, we didn’t fuck up by not having any money for payroll, he’s totally cool working for us for free because he’s a helper; nah, it’s no biggie, just buy me some groceries and give me a lift into town, cause, whatevs, you’re going by Shop-n-Kart anyway, and it’s not like we just ran out of money or something; yeah, it’s hella charming to have one’s unpaid employees living in a tent encampment down by the creek; fuck you, we don’t need a toilet here, as shitting in a box is a normative practice of all country boys everywhere.

And that’s the real problem. The squalor and the insolvency wouldn’t be so bad if they could just admit that they’re fuck-ups instead of being so obnoxiously defensive. They’re frauds, and they make me look bad by comparison because I’m not deranged or amoral enough to blow my own horn when my life is in disarray. I guess they’re trying to manifest good things, but the only thing they’re really on track to manifest is more very competent pro se legal correspondence from their disgruntled nephew, additional prospective plaintiff’s attorneys, and maybe some court injunctions if they’re really into paying it forward. The bizarre irony is that I wouldn’t be giving them any of this shit if they just admitted that they’re losers. It’s not even as if I expect an explicit admission; a quiet end to the bullshit would be enough. I’m fine with losers who have manners, but hustling ain’t manners.

Derp in excelsis.

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