Phil used to manage musical talent. New Kids On The Block, to be specific. He also came to manage The Ritz (former Studio 54), and while there, he’d receive the rider (a stipulation attached to an agreement) from each band before their gig, stating their demands. Ice water, without ice. M&Ms, only green ones. Very very important–no substitutions, please: 1 bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, with all the fixin’s. 1 bag of Oreo cookies. 1 jar of Smucker’s Strawberry Jam. 12 bananas, 2 lbs. seedless grapes, 6 navel oranges. 1 box Count Chocula. That type of thing.
I love the idea of a rider, a list of absurd demands, of favorites. Over dinner tonight, I wanted to get to the bottom of what our family rider might be. Admittedly it was a ruse to get them all to divulge their favorite things. Phil volunteered to go first.
That was a joke.
On Sir Beckett’s rider: a giraffe, apples, french toast, and the color blue. He’d need to arrive by way of train, and tomatoes & chicken would be lovely, then for snack, he’d require cookies—Mama’s cookies.
Miss Abigail’s proviso: pink—the color, not the person. (I tried to talk her out of it, but she held her ground). A giraffe, strawberries, waffles, and a helicopter. There’d be a tie between shrimp and soup, with chips. Dora, not Diego. Lucas can have Diego. Lastly, she’d require a bedtime story: Jack and the Beanstalk. Bean Beckett agreed.
In trying to tuck the talent in tonight, I had a hard time remembering the moral of Jack and the Beanstalk. See, I get that a lot of traditional tales are violent. With blood, slaughters, and careless parents who let their children wander forests alone, equipped only with a dark hard loaf of bread. But I thought a lot of them had a nice tidy life lesson woven in there. The way I tell this particular tale, though, doesn’t make much sense. Before you continue reading here, any idea what the moral is? It’s a story about wants, in the same way a band might attach a rider to its contract. The theme of greed comes into play, but what’s the lesson in it all?
I’ve spun this one a few ways, with Jack going to town to buy a cow, returning instead with five "magic" beans, and I’ve also told the abandonment version: where Jack must sell the family cow, because he can’t expect to get the milk for free.
Although incorrect, I usually stick with Jack’s mother trusting him to go to town and buy a cow. It was the very last of their money, and the cow would give them fresh milk, butter, and cellulite. Jack disappointed his mother when he returned home with "magic" beans instead of Bessy. His mother was so frustrated, disappointed, and angry, that she sent Jack straight to bed and threw the beans out the window. By morning, a beanstalk had sprouted, all the way up to the sky. Jack climbed it and found a castle in the clouds, filled with conflict-free diamonds. I then get into the fee-fi-fo-fum bit a few times, complete with British accent and the blood of an Englishman. I’m not so clear on the hen laying golden eggs, or a magic harp, especially when I just want them to sleep already. So it usually goes, in my version, that Jack does get away, but in doing so, to prevent the giant king from grabbing him, so he can move faster, Jack must unload all the riches he’d taken from the castle, only to arrive back in his yard, chopping down the stalk, with nothing to show for any of it. It’s then that his mother lets him know that he’s the only treasure she needs. When they embrace, something pokes him—why, is that? A sparkling ruby must have fallen down Jack’s shirt and somehow gotten stuck in his bellybutton! Jack, his mama, and the cow live happily ever after.
And the moral of the story? Don’t obey your mama, take a restful snooze, then play in your yard, steal from others, again and again, escape death, and your mother will still love you and ask you if she can cook you your favorite meal.