Friday, June 19, 2009

There were no aliens in New least not in 1938

When you are the baker in the family, you usually don't expect a cake on your own birthday unless you're motivated to make it yourself. So I haven't had a birthday cake for quite awhile.

Until now.

Heir 1's birthday gift to me.

Heir 2 has discovered antique and thrift shops -- happily. This was his gift.

There is a story that goes with this (that the Heirs have, of course, heard ad nauseum).

This is a recording of the original Orson Welles 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. The legendary radio play caused widespread panic among people who thought what they were hearing was authentic.

In the' radio version, H.G. Wells' fictitious aliens land in, of all places, New Jersey -- which would have placed them within linguini-throwing distance of adolescent versions of my wacky aunts and uncles.

As the story goes, my uncle was doing his homework and listening to the radio. He heard the broadcast from the very beginning with the radio play was introduced.

My two aunts, however, came in the middle of it and, as Italians tend to do, overreacted a bit. They began running in circles and screaming.

Now at this point my uncle had a few choices. The obvious course of action would have been to say, simply, "Don't panic." But Douglas Adams wasn't even born yet. Just as effective would have been something to the effect of, "It's just a radio play. There are no aliens landing in New Jersey."

Perhaps not as effective, but certainly more humane, he could have urged them to listen to the radio, which eventually began announcing that what everyone was hearing was a dramatization.

But you know my uncle didn't do that -- not with such a great performance going on in his own livingroom, which by this time involved his two sisters throwing things into suitcases and boxes while screaming at him to help. He calmly continued on with his homework.

In fact, the play was wrapping up just as my grandmother was coming home from work* and he still had not calmed down his sisters and the house was torn up from them throwing everything into whatever they could find.

My uncle, as he has a tendency to do, simply looked up with that "What? I didn't do anything" look. And, technically, he hadn't.

My grandmother, as family legend has it, was not angry over my uncle not telling my aunts about the play; she wasn't even angry that all their stuff was strewn about the livingroom. She simply did one of those Sicilian back-of-the-head slaps to my aunts, called them both "Stupido" and sent everyone to bed.

Somewhere in our communal family archives (probably in John Boy's Basement of Doom) is yet another recording of a (overly) dramatic version of War of the Worlds containing that line that we all repeat to this day (but I'll bet I'm the only one who remembers this is where it came from): "I.............survived."

*My grandfather had died a few years earlier of pneumonia. My grandmother worked in a millinery factory to support herself and her six children (well, five, since my oldest aunt had already married at this point).


jagosaurus said...

Wow. I love it.

Gwynne said...

What a great gift, and story!

Darkgarden said...

I remember listening to that overly dramatic version over and over, and every time my imagination flowed. Not to the people in the story, but to the non-fictionally rused people in the city, the real panic that ensued, and which may have ensued.

...Man... It was cool as shit. My head is so AWSOME!!!

Leslie Shelor said... uplifting!

Shay said...

Ah, the Sicilian back of the head slap. I administered one of those to a sibling at my nephew's wedding last weekend, and we're not even Sicilian.