“I love to eat. Who here loves to eat?” Barry Becker said to open his show in Waukee, Iowa. “You’re applauding politely. Most people do. Very few people applaud that line wildly. We all eat, and we all enjoy it, but we’re not going to hoot and holler a joke about it. Especially, if we’re on a first date. Nobody lets their lover see them naked with a line like, “You like what you see? Enjoy it while you can, because it’s all going to end soon. It’s only a matter of time before this becomes a big mess of Frito’s and Skittles. I love to eat babe.
“I’ll tell you who does hoot and holler. Skinny people. Yeah, they don’t mind sharing it with the world. “I love to eat!” Really, well, you obviously don’t love it as much as I do. I’m here today to take it back for we, the people. “I love to eat!” Shout it loud. Shout it proud. I like to sleep, and I like to sit and do nothing for hours at a time, but nothing compares to eating.
“Have you ever had a friend say, “Let’s go get something to eat.” Their presentation is so mundane and routine. They act like eating a meal is just something that we should do, so we can get it over with and do something else. Hey, hey, hold on there little doggie. I don’t know what you plan to do after the meal, but the meal is the event to me. I’m getting old, and keeping these beautiful curves ain’t as easy as it used to be, so I’m not into ‘Let’s just get something to eat’. If I’m only going to be able to eat one meal a day, and you’re going to tell me to cut back on snacks, then you better get your A-game out if you’re going to ask me to have a meal with you. Use your words. Dadgumit! Seduce me.
“I ate a big, beautiful ribeye the other day. It was an event for me when the waiter placed that big old thing before me. This is what I planned for all day. It was just gorgeous. I could hardly see any plate. I wish I would’ve enjoyed it more, but I had to get down to eating. Then it was over. The event I looked forward to all day was gone. It was so hot and so good that I ate it too fast. I didn’t chit chat, and I didn’t look around the room too much. I even forgot I had someone sitting across the table. I hate reaching the end of a meal and having to force down the last few lukewarm bites. So, I eat those big, beautiful looking ribeyes so fast that I can’t remember how good they are.
“It’s my dad’s fault that I eat this way. The man taught me how to eat. He did not allow for chit-chat at the dinner table. We were there to eat, and like a huskie on a dog sled, if we didn’t have our utensils locked and loaded in a timely manner, our musher would start making those kissing sounds. Barry! Barry! Mmh mmh mmh!”
“My dad didn’t actually make kissing sounds, but what if he did? What if the Iditarod was so popular in our country that its tradition of making kissing sounds to get huskies to go faster influenced our parents to make kissy sounds at the table when we wouldn’t eat?
“When we think about all of the quirky and odd traditions, is it really such an insane notion? My mom used to read to me every night, she’d tuck me in, and give me a kiss. Then, right before she’d close the door she’d say, “Good night. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”
“She did not intend to introduce horrific thoughts into my already creative mind of course. It was a tradition that she passed that line down to me, because her mom passed it down to her, and I passed it down to my kid, and we do this without really thinking about what we’re saying to them. We think it conveys sentiment. I love you, and have a good night’s sleep. Oh, and don’t let the bedbugs bite. She did it so often that by the time I started thinking about what it was she was saying, it was already an accepted part of our parting ritual at the end of a night. I also think she just liked the phrase, because it rhymes, “Good night, don’t let the bedbugs bite.” If we take a step back and think about what we’re saying before we close the door, immersing our kids in total darkness, where their unusually creative minds spin just about everything we say into some horror that causes them insomnia and nightmares, we might want to give some thought to ending that tradition.
“I heard another tradition that we’ve passed down for generations when I picked up my kid from school. Some kids, somewhere on the playground, began singing the borderline horrific rhyme Ring around the Rosies. I smiled when I heard it. “Ring around the rosie, pocket full of posies, ashes ashes, we all fall down,” they sang. Apparently, there are numerous versions of this song, and some of you might know a different one, but that’s the one I know. That’s the one we know right? For as many versions as there are, there are almost as many interpretations of its lyrics. Most of us sang it just to sing something while we did something else, but some folklorists suggest the lyrics ‘ring around the rosie’ might have developed as a result of kids teasing other kids anytime they had a red owie on their arm. The theme of their teasing was that owie probably means that you have the plague that was killing over 100,000 Londoners in 1665. The ‘pocket full of posies’ lyrics, some suggest, were to mock those who thought that carrying flowers in their pocket was a homeopathic remedy to prevent the onset of the plague. “Even though you had a pocket full of posies, you still caught the plague, sucker!” The conclusion of the song might be the most horrific, as the “Ashes, Ashes, we all fall down” lyrics suggest that the tormentors relented that we’re all probably going to get the plague anyway, and we’re all going to die en mass. One would think that in the age of COVID, we might want to give some thought to ending that tradition too.
“I’ve heard that that folklore that arose around these interpretations of the lyrics might not be true, but even the most obnoxious fact-checking, internet sleuths will have to admit that there’s enough speculation among folklorists who’ve examined the lyrics of the song that we should probably stop teaching it as a sweet, pleasant “sing-along” rhyming song our kids can sing on a playground. I mean, how can anyone spin “Ashes ashes we all fall down?” as anything other than a relatively disturbing image? A creative young mind might even spin the lyrics as a warning for all participants to prepare for a nuclear winter?
“In that spirit of the odd, decidedly less violent traditions we pass on, let’s say we meet our friend and his kids out at a restaurant, and he starts mushing his kids with the kissy sounds that can often be heard in an Iditarod. “Aiden, Aiden, mmh mmmh!”
“Why are you doing that Cliff?”
“The kid won’t eat,” Cliff says. “He gets distracted by every little thing, and if I don’t continually mush him, we’ll be here till eight o’clock waiting for him to finish.”
“So, you accomplish that by making kissy noises at him?”
“I guess I never put much thought into it before,” Cliff laughs. “My dad did it to me, and I kind of do it now without thinking when the boys here get to playing with their food and junk. My grandfather raced in the Iditarod, and I think he took that mushing sound home with him. My dad did it to me, and I guess the practice just made its way down to me.”
“Okay, but you might want to reconsider doing it in the middle of the Olive Garden,” we say. “People don’t know your story, and I don’t think the Child Protective Agency will understand your family tradition.”