By David Shapiro

Saturday, June 28, 1997

Alien, Uncle Otto

That’s no alien --
that’s Uncle Otto

The headline grabbed my attention. "The aliens were dummies," it said, reporting the Air Force's conclusion that the "aliens" who UFO fanatics believe crashed near Roswell, N.M., 50 years ago were actually dummies dropped from the sky in military parachute tests.

Even more than the headline, the photo of the dummy/alien that accompanied the story stopped me in my tracks.

"Wait a minute," I said. "That's no dummy. That's no alien. That's my Uncle Otto!"

The resemblance is uncanny. There's but one explanation: Uncle Otto must be an alien.

It would explain a lot of things. Like the way he talks. "Hey David," he told me on his last visit, "I loved dot story your reporter Boil Boilingame wrote about dem old airplanes. Your mother Poillie brought you to New York on one of dose when you was a baby."

Uncle Otto says he talks like that because he's from Brooklyn, but I've always doubted his story. Unless all of Brooklyn is an alien colony.

The alien theory would explain his frequent trips to Las Vegas. "I tell ya' David, dose goils out dere is somethin'."

I assumed he was talking about showgirls, but now that I think about it maybe "goils" are alien creatures he was meeting up with.

Uncle Otto operates at a super-human energy level. When I was a child, his visits were like a tornado hitting our house. He'd swoop in, drop off something from the bakery, give each kid a kiss and a few bucks and be out the door in three minutes to go visit someone else. Who was that masked Martian?

He was the same when he visited us here a few years ago. I picked him up in Waikiki and brought him home to Kailua. He had barely finished his soup before he was ready to head back to Waikiki and get it on with "dem huler goils wit dose cocernut berzierres."

The biggest clue that Uncle Otto must be an alien is that he's way too sweet a guy to be human. He was a genuine war hero too modest to talk much about it. He lost his beloved Lauretta to cancer at much too young an age and raised two boys on his own. He worked like a dog all of his life without complaint.

The beauty is that Uncle Otto never passed up a chance to give of himself generously and was rewarded with a long, healthy retirement.

He retired strong as an ox with rugged good looks that would make you swear he's 20 years younger than he is. It would be a Jupiter-sized understatement to say that he has enjoyed all of the female companionship he could handle in his retirement.

Uncle Otto in his mid-80s now. He's slowed down a little, but he's hanging in there. On my last trip to Los Angeles, we drove 30 miles to visit him at the rest home he recently moved into. He was delighted to see us but, typically, after about a six-minute visit he was showing us to the door so he could move on to other things.

He was last seen walking back toward the pool hand-in-hand with one of the lady residents. Thinking back, I'm sure she had little antennae growing out of her head.

David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at
Volcanic Ash runs every Saturday in the Star-Bulletin.

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