Monday, July 22, 2019

Meta Me Some Old Time Radio

19 Tamuz 5779.

The Narrator, played by David Eastman
Last year, I wrote about the best birthday ever, when my loving children paid money to have me thrown out of an airplane. It really was the best birthday present ever -- until now.

It started as a day like any other day. We decided to visit our kids and grandkids in Modi'in. After a particularly great visit with the small daughters of one of our young couples, we helped see them off to bed, and decided to go for a walk to let the parents rub two or three complete sentences together in private, something all parents of active kids appreciate.

The Dearly Beloved was acting slightly odd (though I'd become used to this after the last couple of months. More later). He was watching the time -- not normal -- and insisted that we make it back to the apartment by 9 PM. Okay, fine...

Dex Ranger, played by Joshua Eastman
We reentered the apartment to shouts of "Surprise!" and "Happy birthday, Ema!" from the crowd of Eastmans. This was extremely surprising, because my birthday isn't for another two months. Better still, the computer was open and facing me, offering not one but two overseas families sending real-time wishes and smiles. I was feeling happy, overwhelmed and confused all at once. But it got better...

For two months, the family was preparing for a blockbuster surprise. (I was relieved to discover that the Dearly Beloved's recent tendency to quickly douse whatever he was doing on his computer whenever I entered the room wasn't due to a sudden fascination with Things He Shouldn't Be Viewing on the Internet, or worse.) Here's the scoop.

My family knows that I love Old Time Radio (OTR). Back in simpler days (mostly before I was born), there was no internet and no television, and families gathered around the radio to be entertained by dramatized stories, often ending with positive moral messages. Hallmarks of such radio plays were the public service announcements and commercials with college-educated English, clever sound effects, and mood-setting organ music woven throughout. Since they were recorded live, the background history is full of behind-the-scenes stories that still make me smile nearly as much as the comedies.

Constable Huxtable, played by Dani Eastman
Of all the stories, my favorites were the murder mysteries. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, variously interpreted by the great actors of the day, offered intriguing puzzles to be solved. Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe gave us hard-boiled detective fiction and some great prose. (See especially The Red Wind with Van Heflin and Gerald Mohr for a taste of artfully-penned stories-for-your-mind.) During my formative teen years, a group called Firesign Theatre produced a delightfully irreverent parody of OTR called Nick Danger, Third Eye. Never as interested in television (which requires sitting still) as in radio, my internal playground was always filled with the sights and sounds and characters from the old classics.This hobby continues even now, as it's much easier to clean a house to audio rather than visual entertainment. Music is for writing. Rabbis' lectures are for erev Shabbat. And OTR stories are for adding immense pleasure to every day.

Back to the future...

The Secretary, played by Daniella Eastman

A couple of months ago, my son Josh sent out to all our sons and daughters-in-love a script for an hour-long radio play called The Day That Time Forgot. (Click on the title to listen to the radio program on YouTube, but only when you have a good hour to spare.) The participants were instructed to send Josh their lines via Whatsapp voice recordings, and they were asked to make an in-costume black and white photo. They did, surprisingly, around exceedingly busy lives, and in total secrecy (which is not easy for such a communicative family. Kudos). Their accents and acting were marvelous! Josh wove the entire collection of disparate recordings together with sound effects, the requisite organ music, and a Firesign Theatre level of humor.

Mrs. Gloria Miles, played by Tova Eastman

Jimmy the Fist, played by Yoni Eastman

Molly Featherhammer, played by Naomi Eastman

Seamus Rajah O'Culty, played by Aryeh Eastman

Momma Lonny Ranger, played by Ayala Eastman

Velvel Gezhunt, played by Sam Bosley

Vladmirova Gezhunt, played by Michelle Bosley

Sterling Shimmers, played by Sima Eastman

Supreme Detective Texas "Dex the Tex" Texas Ranger, played by Avi Eastman

Fun behind-the-scenes facts you can only get from an insider:
  • Sam, my only non-Jewish son, got all the good Yiddish lines, and performed them with an expertise borne, no doubt, of something buried deep in his genetic makeup. (His maternal grandfather was Jewish.)
  • Tova is from Maryland, with its unique southern-ish accent, while Naomi is from Monsey. The ladies swapped accents for their dramatic performances. Delightful!
  • The grandkids act as well as the adults! Who knew?
  • The script is loaded with clues and jokes that only family will get, as well as proof that the playwright did a lot of research into OTR! Nice job, artistes!
Now, how can you possibly top this birthday??? Stay tuned for the next exciting episode, brought to you by Rx Brand Cigarettes and Dino Bone Coal!

All photos of the stars are presented in order of appearance in the play to avoid, yet again, that familiar canard that Ema has a favorite child. Her clear favorite child is the old guy who appears last because, as the Sages have taught us, "Aharon, aharon haviv," the last is the most beloved. That's you, Dex the Tex, you big dog, you. Thanks for helping me raise up all them cute pups.

Glossary - Meta: a bit of modern slang-play for the Kantian concept of das Ding an sich, the thing in itself. More clearly, making a radio play about the mystery radio show industry isn't meta. Making a radio mystery play about making a radio mystery play is. Does that help?


  1. WOW! What an AWESOME birthday surprise! I'm absolutely speechless!!! Does the Eastman family adopt?

    1. You are lovely, my friend. Thank you for the wonderfully encouraging comment!

  2. I love the creativity, attention to detail and inclusiveness! Such a huge demonstration of their love for you!

    1. Thank you so much for writing and commenting! They did, indeed, put in a lot of work and artistry.

  3. This is the coolest thing that I have ever read.

    1. I'm so happy you enjoyed it, Sharon. It is especially meaningful, since you are The Queen of Raise Your Spirits!

  4. what nachas and overflowing love for their Ema! A wonderful tribute of love, mamash!

    1. Baruch Hashem -- and SO much fun was had by all!

  5. ABSOLUTELY AMAZING,CREATIVE,DELIGHTFUL!! Ruti,here's to your great family and the special,incredible way you and your dearly beloved have raised them!!
    Thanks for sharing this treat!!

    1. Thank you so very much for your kind words. They are a remarkable gang, baruch Hashem!

  6. You indeed have very extraordinary family. I love the way you wrote and how you described your big beautiful surprise. This was an awesome display of their love to you. And it's because of the wonderful mother they have that raised them with a lot of love. This really touched my heart.
    May you have a very happy healthy birthday!! עד 120

    I am honoured to be friends with you a woman of Valor.


    1. What a lovely and thoughtful comment, Batia. I am honored to have such an insightful friend. May we share many happy stories, for long, healthy years!

  7. What a marvelous and creative family you have! עד 120!

    1. Thank you, Yael. They are indeed a quirky and creative lot! AMEN on that bracha... and back atcha!