If everyone were drunk there would be no war.”  ~ Anthony Bourdain

It’s been a week. Seems much longer than a week. It all started with questions. “What?” “How?” “Why?” That was after the “Oh fuck no.” I suppose he’d have appreciated the “f” bomb. A well placed expletive was part of his unique charm. I present as evidence, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, his clear-cut ruling on a basic dining right in the land of the free and the home of the Hamburg steak, “I believe that as an American I should be able to walk into any restaurant in America and order my hamburger – that most American of foods – medium fucking rare.”

Anthony Bourdain joined our family in 2002 with his show, A Cook’s Tour.  He came into our home once a week; sometimes a couple times if we decided to watch a repeat. Being the maverick sort of guy that he was there were stretches in which he disappeared for awhile only to get a new show and resume the weekly visits.

I’ve watched every episode of every TV series and I’ve read Medium Raw and No Reservations, savoring his bold, gritty style. I devoured Kitchen Confidential like that medium fucking rare burger complete with a greasy drool. There was a lot to be learned through his books and his television shows. I learned about the professional kitchen; I learned about cuisines; from carts and shanties to everyday households to sprawling villas to Michelin rated restaurants; I got a taste of cultures from West Virginia to Las Vegas to Hong Kong to Armenia. Hell I even learned that you don’t order fish at a restaurant on Mondays.

And in the end I learned that appearances can be deceiving and I along with a legion of fans and admirers are all left with the dangling question of how could a world traveller, talented writer, accomplished chef and unparalleled raconteur who had earned worldwide adoration take his own life?  That sucker punch leaves us with an ache, no answers, a few hackneyed theories and the lingering realization that yes, this indeed blows.

To say that Anthony Bourdain wrote books and did television shows about food and travel is sort of like saying that Einstein could add and subtract and Beethoven plinked at the piano now and again.

Bourdain took food and travel entertainment to a different level; like, oh, the stratosphere. His programs broke new ground. Case in point, turn on any travel show about Rome and the first thing you see is the Colosseum. Watch a Bourdain program about Rome and the Colosseum might get a passing mention as a place where stray cats hang out (And they do, or at least they did when I was last there). Anthony would show us people and the out of the way places, maybe an obscure trattoria in a nondescript little piazza

He trotted out helpings of street food and home cooking along with hoity toity tasting menus and judged them all equally. A properly cooked hamburger (make that medium fucking rare) was no less worthy of praise than a bouillabaisse. He showed us the luxurious hotels and restaurants but gave equal if not more time to the dirt poor family kitchen or the guy hawking fried insects under a ramshackle canopy and as an extra attraction he added a social commentary about the injustice that allows the dirt poor. He wasn’t afraid to, on an American T.V. show, point out that Americans have been complicit in injustices worldwide. He wasn’t afraid to call out the ugly Americans.

Anthony Bourdain took to task the pretentious and championed the working class. Maybe that’s a reason that I was so drawn to Anthony; his intolerance of those with an inflated sense of self-worth, the wannabe A listers who are at their core nothing more than professional moochers.

One of the things I’d forgotten about seriously wealthy people…Those motherfuckers don’t pay for shit.”

In Medium Raw he writes about a woman who he met while in England; rich woman who he would later discover was batshit crazy. He discovered the batshittiness during a trip to his simple little no name island hideaway in the Caribbean.

All’s well until she suggests going to St. Barthélemy Island, a short hop away. Anthony has his reservations to put it mildly, “It was not a period in my life marked by good decisions but in agreeing to “pop over” to St. Barths, I’d made a particular whopper of a wrong turn – a plunge into the true heart of darkness.” Indulge me while I digress here. This style of writing, this raw genius is for me as juicy as that medium fucking rare burger.

Anthony says what the hell and it’s during the jaunt to St. Barths that it becomes clear to him that his companion has a few loose screws. But what strikes me most about this episode is his scathing criticism of the spoiled rich, calling them every high profile douche, Euro-douche wannabe and oligarch with a mega-yacht.”  “ A poisonous orbit,” he called it.

We know who these people are. They’re societal cockroaches. They feed, they reproduce, they flit here and there, they don’t do anything discernible and yet for some reason they enjoy a modicum of fame and an obscene amount of money.. The name Kardashian comes to mind. Is this where my admiration for Anthony comes from?

“All Seemed to have come to St. Barths over the holidays in order to find subtle new ways to say ‘fuck you’ to each other. With a smile of course.”

Anthony called out bullshit but he just as often lionized the honest hard worker. Time and again he gave credit to the kitchen grunts, “No one understands and appreciates the American Dream of hard work leading to material rewards better than a non-American. The Ecuadorian, Mexican, Dominican and Salvadorian cooks I’ve worked with over the years make most CIA -educated boys look like clumsy, sniveling little punks.”  Those clumsy punks, he characterizes as annoyingly opinionated, possessed of egos requiring constant stroking and tuneups..”

Anthony Bourdain did cooking and travel shows with a flair, and an insightful and unorthodox approach that some might call blasphemous. But that’s why we loved him. There were no sacred cows. Hell cows were made for eating; right down to the tripe and the brains.

Anthony Bourdain gave us food and sights, although he often eschewed and diminished the tourist attractions. An Anthony Bourdain show gave us faces and expressions that often told wordless stories; the expressions said it all.  A former Viet Cong soldier in Vietnam, the veil-less faces of Saudi women; prolific old rocker in Berlin; half naked children in a brackish Cambodian river; a centenarian in Pittsburgh; street kids in Tripoli; rice farmers in Myanmar. Anthony Bourdain presented to us on screen and in print a side dish of food next to a main course of culture served on an international tablecloth.

“Bluntly stated, members of families who eat together regularly are statistically less likely to stick up liquor stores, blow up meth labs, give birth to crack babies, commit suicide or make donkey porn.”

Every week of every season of every show Anthony Bourdain taught the lesson that the dining table is not simply the place to take in nourishment.  For that all you need is a trough. The dining table is, or should be, a place of fellowship; the forum for family, friends and most importantly, strangers.

This world traveler dined on squirrel in the simple home of West Virginia hill people. This after he went to a shooting session with the locals. He took on the touchy subject of guns in America and while we cringed in anticipation of controversy, the heated argument we all expected never happened. In the end it was a tempered discussion amidst the larger fellowship over a plate of squirrel..

A week later he dined in the home of an Armenian family and the discussion turned to the Turkish genocide. Every week he showed us what mealtime is supposed to be; the coming together; the time to bond; the time to discuss the trivialities of life and the serious and sometime contentious social and political affairs of the world.

Meanwhile in most of  America we’ve largely ignored that lesson. Even in my own home we eat in shifts. The wife eats first while I’m in the gym. I come home and eat as she cleans her dinner dishes and then my daughter comes home and eats with her kids; that is when her kids haven’t eaten sometime between my meal and her arrival.

And even when we are together the ever present cell phone pulls everyone into their own personal little world. We watched Anthony week after week at mealtime gatherings; a beauty of fellowship. But we continued heedlessly with our own balkanized existence, touching each others lives in brief moments of passing while on the way to watch a basketball game, play a video game or gawk at a cell phone. Lesson imparted – lesson ignored. I’ve tried to have family meals but old habits die hard and bad ones die even harder.  

Each successive series, starting with A Cook’s Tour was an evolution. Food always played a role but with each series it became more of a bit player to what became the starring role of culture. And each series became more interesting. Think about that. We typically watch cooking and food shows for the food porn; a hot pot in Sichuan; Arancine (Sicilian Rice Balls) or a deep fried Twinkie at the county fair. Bourdain elevated it. We became more fascinated by the discussion than the food.

I ask myself, who in the hell would want to look in on my family’s meals? Well nobody, because as I said our family table is just a divide. And I’m not proud of that. Reflecting on this whole dinner table as a round table thing I go back to Rome and the meals that we had with my mom’s Italian side of our family. The food was magnificent; a pasta or maybe stuffed tomatoes to start; followed by a roast or chicken with potatoes and ending with my aunt rolling out a cart of cheese and salami.  The bread basket was never empty. When it got low it would be replenished. Fresh bread from the monger at the outdoor market was an essential. It was the mop that cleaned your plate. And then there were the rivers of wine. We stayed at the table for hours in discussion until clean up was inevitable. And it didn’t stop at the table. There was talk in the kitchen as the women cleaned up; a couple of the men might stay at the table and drink some Vat 69 or go to a corner table to play chess.

“Filipinos are, for reasons I have yet to figure out, probably the most giving of people on the planet.”

“Filipinos love feeding people.”

I had my own Bourdain moment when my Filipina wife took me to a typical Filipino party. One of the main courses was lechon, a whole roasted pig. At some point I found myself in the backyard with a group of older Filipino men (I was in my 40’s; the group 60ish). The men alternately spoke English, Tagalog and Taglish. I got some of the conversation, but the rest?  Did not have a fucking clue. But that was cool. It was good fellowship. What could be better than a warm summer evening on the back patio, bottles of whiskey, a cooler of beer and the sightless eyes of a roasted pig looking on. As we chatted there in a circle we drank Jack Daniels and beer and pulled bits of meat and crunchy skin off of the pig’s head. I’ve been to dozens of Filipino parties over the 37 years of marriage but those moments at that party will always remain with me. I could imagine Anthony being at that party, sipping whiskey and commenting alternately about sisig and the human condition.

Cora and I found Anthony Bourdain on the Food Network. That was in 2002 when the Food Network was all food with a smattering of travel shows. On a station that featured other food celebrities; Rachel Ray, Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse, Bourdain was the network black sheep.

To Anthony, Rachael Ray “symbolized everything I thought wrong…about the Brave New World of celebrity chefs.” I thought that was an unfair criticism. Her E.V.O.O and a few other annoyances aside she existed in a useful niche; meal ideas for busy people on a budget that you could throw together in a few minutes.  She never did represent herself as a chef and was quick to point that out that she was basically just a simple cook.

As for Flay and Lagasse, he felt that they had sold themselves out to commercialism. In the end it seems that Anthony and Emeril found a detente. In his book, Medium Raw Bourdain talks of how Emeril was treated shabbily by the very Food Network empire that he’d built.

A Cook’s Tour had a two year run before the show was cashiered. It was probably too much for a Food Network that would two years later turn into a ridiculous parody of a cooking channel. In 2005, Guy Fieri came along and he would replace Emeril as the network standard bearer under a flag of simple minded hokum.

And Anthony Bourdain? He was too edgy, too out there and too fucking honest for the plans of Brooke Johnson who became the Food Network honcho. The Food Network turned into banal pabulum that couldn’t support the Bourdain substance. It was about this time that The Food Network became a platform for fatuous competition shows and cooking contests. Cora and I bailed.

Anthony Bourdain had been the outlier. Could you imagine Rachael Ray sucking on a hookah in Thailand or Bobby Flay in a cheap hotel scarfing a muffaletta and chasing it with cheap bourbon and a smoke? Where else on the Food Network, but A Cook’s Tour would you find someone who would say of a line of wok chefs, “I’ll bet these guys get hammered after work. I know I would.”

Anthony disappeared for three years and returned on the Travel Channel in his new show, No Reservations. This new program was an hour long, twice A Cook’s Tour. The show, while spotlighting food, took on the history and culture of the destinations Bourdain visited. Just as on The Food Network, Anthony was the reprobate. Could you imagine Samantha Brown crashing a wedding in Sicily or dismissing a micro sized car by saying, “All I need is a fucking (bleeped of course) little poodle in the passenger seat.

No Reservations had its moments but without a doubt my most memorable was when Anthony was ushered by the Panamanian Director of National Security to a mountain of pure cocaine – 6 tons worth. Anthony in his own inimitable way exclaimsthat’s a lot of mother fucking cocaine.” As blocks of coke are hacked asunder, looking like chunks of sheet rock, he looks into the camera and rules that There will be no Lindsay Lohan jokes.” But Bourdain being Bourdain; well he can’t stop there.

“Fifteen years ago this would have been what I asked Santa Claus to bring me for Christmas.”

“It looks like Keith Richards’ bedspread back in the 70’s.”

As he prepares to put torch to coke, he admits to the camera. “I’d like to say this is the first time I’ve cooked cocaine, but that’s not exactly true.” Take that Rick Steves.

No Reservations lasted for nine seasons. Towards the end of the show’s run, The Travel Channel added another Bourdain vehicle, The Layover in 2011. The premise was to take in a particular city from both a traveler’s perspective and a locals’ perspective, all within 24 to 48 hours. We would have Anthony for 2 more season as the show ended in 2013, a year after the last season of No Reservations.

After The Layover, CNN brought Anthony Bourdain to the Sunday evening slot for Parts Unknown. Food was still the vehicle but society, culture and history were the main topics and to a much greater extent than his other shows – politics.

He broke bread with Russian dissident and Putin critic Boris Nemtsov in, of all places, a restaurant in Moscow. One half expected, or whole expected, the entrance of some KGB thugs to disappear Bourdain and Nemtsov to the bowels of a dank prison out in oblivion Russia, never to be seen again.( A short time later Nemtsov was assassinated).

And then there was the meeting between then President Barack Obama and Anthony slurping noodles and clinking beer bottles in a Hanoi restaurant. The unforgettable moment for me was the ketchup discussion.
Bourdain asked the President the burning question, “Is ketchup on a hot dog ever acceptable?”
Obama straightaway answered in the negative adding, “..Let’s put it this way. It’s not acceptable past the age of 8.”

I miss both men. Both down to Earth decent humans; one gone and the other watching his legacy banished to a gulag by an ignorant wannabe dictator. I doubt that Bourdain would have ever sat down to a meal with Trump but suffice to say that Trump would have put ketchup on his hot dog – and talked only about himself.

On Donald Trump, “It’ll be really prophetic if he does with the presidency what he did with Atlantic City, which is pretty much declare victory and then retreat. If you remember, when he left his casinos behind broken and in shambles, he was quick to point out how well it worked out for him. He made his money, but his investors and Atlantic City were left with a gigantic, hideous white elephant.”

In an interview for Eater, “I have utter contempt for him, utter and complete contempt.”

Perhaps omelet skills should be learned at the same time you learn to fuck.”

Anthony Bourdain was a teacher. He taught us new things, things that we already knew and forgot and he pointed out the obvious. And so today, while working out on the elliptical trainer at the gym I read a chapter titled Virtue.

The virtue that he discusses is the one that addresses one of the most basic of human needs – food. Not so much the thing but the “ability to feed yourself and a few others with proficiency.” Or as he more colorfully and bluntly puts it learning to cook “should be as vital to growing up as learning to wipe one’s own ass…”

Turns out a lot of people can’t cook and I know quite a few. Ask them to fry an egg and they look at you as if you’ve challenged them to pick up an angry rattlesnake. So if we take Anthony’s words at face value then I know a lot of people with itchy assholes and skid marks on their drawers.

I suppose that writing this and watching some episodes of his shows will bring some solace. Maybe just more depression. I’m rereading Medium Raw and trying to wrap my head around this whole thing. We watch a repeat of A Cook’s Tour and my wife keeps saying, “I just can’t accept that he’s gone.”

I don’t know that I’ve ever been so depressed about the passing of a celebrity. Some celebrity who I’ve never really heard of passes and it could just as well be some guy on the other side of town. Some celebrities I’ve some knowledge of  but their deaths are simply another news story. Anthony Bourdain shook me up. I learned while getting ready for work. As I normally do every morning while getting ready for work I tuned to CNN to see what the White House dumb fuck was up to and after a few stories about the White House infestation the breaking news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide sucker punched me.

I guess the sense of loss is because he was such an articulate spokesman for so many of the things that I believe in. He relentlessly called out human rights violations, social and economic inequities, pretentiousness, the fake, the hypocritical and the bullshit. And at the same time he admitted to his own faults.

He kicked his drug habit and while he addressed it with some dark humor he nonetheless made it clear that his drug days were clearly not good ones. In his book Medium Raw, Anthony writes, “I never saw heroin or cocaine as ‘my illness.’ I saw them as bad choices that I walked knowingly into. I fucked myself – and, eventually, had to work hard to get myself un-fucked.

Like all of us he had plenty of faults but he took no pains in trying to hide them. Most of us aren’t quite so cheeky. We keep our skeletons tucked neatly away in the darkest corner of the closet and sweat bullets when we find someone rummaging around that closet.

For his fans it was all good, he was human; one of us. Who are we to judge?  Certainly not me. Maybe I took to his story so easily because his early mistakes have made me reflect on my own. We were unapologetic kindred sinners. Over the years I probably paid for the braces and college educations of generations of Jack Daniels’ distillery workers’ kids; I find a well placed and even an ill-timed “f” bomb entirely appropriate and oh have I forgotten those bordello periods when I fucked indiscriminately. He owned his sins and often waved them at us as warning flags. I’ve more or less kept mine in the closet, so if you’re reading this don’t tell my wife about my wayward past life.

“To put it plainly I was driving drunk. Every night. There’s no need to lecture me. To tell me what might have happened. That wasting my own stupid life is one thing – but I could easily have crushed how many innocents under my wheels during that time? … Looking back I break into a cold sweat just thinking about it. Like a lot of things in life, there’s nothing prettier just ‘cause time passed. It happened. It was bad. There it is.”

This was at a time when Anthony lived on the edge of disaster and some have pointed to this as a sign that he was troubled even then. I don’t know that I buy that. He was making bad choices.  Choices that many of us have made, especially in our young and stupid years when men make that macho boast that they won’t live to see thirty. Sometimes we make careless bad choices that could take our lives or the lives of others. Sometimes a bad choice becomes a tragedy and sometimes its a guardian angel or just plain shithouse luck that pulls our chestnuts out of the fire.   

I call my that period during most of my 20’s “the lost years.” I should have been going to graduate school; I should have been preparing for a meaningful career doing what I thought I would love. Instead I fucked around; figuratively and literally.  Ian Dury’s little ditty, Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll easily applied to me only throw in alcohol for good measure. I was, like Dury’s band’s name – a blockhead.  

Driving from the Sunset District of San Francisco across town to Chinatown; the hostess bars and countless beers with a whiskey back. Closing a bar down and then heading to a nearby noodle shop or navigating back to the neighborhood and nodding over three in the morning pancakes at Zim’s with a Korean girl I barely knew and then home or to a tiny downtown apartment with walls that oozed a smell of Korean food and then show up at work the next morning in rumpled clothes and an equally rumpled brain. Sunday mornings were for street football and beer between plays. The workday was made palatable by popping over to the dive bar across the street for a shot of Jack or doing some lines in a dark corner of the store I worked at.

Do I regret it. Not really. I might have been that history professor that I wanted to be but my course would have been changed so that I wouldn’t be in a comfortable home  with my current wife of 37 years who stuck by me and managed to get me “un-fucked.” And there’s all the resulting good that came from meeting that wonderful woman. 

And so I wonder what might have become of Anthony Bourdain had he not “knowingly walked into his bad choices.”  Maybe he just would have gone to the CIA and settled into a humdrum comfortable existence working the kitchen at a Hilton in New York. Certainly there would have been no Kitchen Confidential.  For better or worse much of what made Anthony Bourdain famous was his litany of bad decisions; the cocaine cooking, the heroin, the indiscriminate fucking and days spent tempting fate in the Caribbean.  I doubt he ever regretted those choices. 

Maybe I was drawn to Anthony Bourdain by his chapter called titled Meat in Medium Raw.  It’s the one in which he exposes the multinational corporation Cargill for producing meat that’s lean in taste and rich in e coli and the chemicals that kill it. He also takes on the pretentiousness of restaurants that offer so called boutique burgers. You know those places; the ones that offer your basic Hamburg steak on a bun that starts at 10 bucks and then like a car dealer charges extra for the options like lettuce, onions and tomatoes.

Maybe it’s because like me he was an unrepentant carnivore rolling eyes at the vegetarians. “Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food.” He was the carnivorial voice against the intransigent, extremists who have pushed their leafy green religion on me with the judgmental zeal of a tubthumping evangelist. Hey look I get it, you like kale and yes it’s good for you. Enjoy your greens but let me enjoy a hot dog smothered in onions and kraut. You might live a couple years longer but I’ll die with the salty nitrate filled memory of a ¼ pound tube steak.

Maybe I was drawn to Anthony over his feud with Guy Fieri. I thought Guy was a pretty cool guy when he was the first Next Food Network Star.  And then he just turned into a douchie caricature and I’d had enough. Maybe it was a little mean spirited of me to revel in Anthony’s barbs.

“I sort of feel in a heartfelt way for Guy [Fieri]. I wonder about him. He’s 52 years old and still rolling around in the flame outfit, What does he do? How does Guy Fieri de-douche?”

Maybe it was his unique writing style that made you laugh as he drove home a point that was as serious as that coronary that he warned you about if you ate too much of the Colonel’s chicken. He wasn’t so much saying that you shouldn’t do it. He called himself something of a Libertarian. Eat what you want but the consequences are all on you.

Maybe it’s the style of writing.  “With the hot dog, there was always a feeling of implied consent. We always knew-or assumed-that whatever it was inside that snappy tube, it might contain anything, from 100 percent kosher beef to dead zoo animals or parts of missing Gambino family. With a hot dog…there was always the tacit agreement that you were on your own.”

Oh wait, I know. Maybe it’s because Anthony Bourdain at 61 was what many of us aging males wish we could be; a penetrating storyteller, journalist, culinary expert who traveled the world; met and dined with the famous and the common; got tattoos on a whim and was sought after by women half his age. What graying American man wouldn’t want to be that?

And then he hung himself. Maybe these graying American men don’t want to be him. What the hell happened? The popular theory is that he was hiding depression. I don’t know that. Maybe something happened that in the moment he felt he just couldn’t handle. I don’t know that either.

Absent a note or manifesto we’re all in the dark as to why Anthony Bourdain took his own life in, a dark appropriateness, France – a place he loved. Who knows why people end their lives? My daughter has often called it a most selfish act. I don’t agree. I guess sometimes life gets to be too much. Only those who in those minutes and seconds before committing the deed, actually know, and who are the rest of us to judge. It’s a personal thing. The very most personal thing.

My dad died of pneumonia after years of suffering with Alzheimer’s. Would I have begrudged him if, in some lucid moment, he’d decided to bow out? It’s something I’ve thought about. Alzheimer’s is my dread. I couldn’t guarantee that if I found a flicker of light in the middle of the madness I wouldn’t order a pizza with extra anchovies, open a bottle of Jack Daniels get in the car close the garage and fire up the Hemi in my Challenger and eat pie and drink Jack as the fumes usher me out.

I’m not at all making light of suicide. It’s a serious thing especially to a Catholic boy who was taught that suicide gets you an express ticket to hell. Even after you’ve renounced most of the Papist BS some of those guilt trips from years of catechism stay with you. Nuns don’t fuck around – they use that big heavy duty permanent marker.

Anthony Bourdain? I suppose that the reports and anecdotal evidence will give us a foggy picture of what happened. I know that he was cremated in France. I don’t need to know any more.

What troubles me though is this from Medium Raw . Talking about his then two year old daughter, My daughter grinning maniacally as she jumps and twists about three feet below me, is very pleased that I am here. ‘That’s right I do love you more than the mothers of all these other children love them. That’s why daddy’s here and they’re not. They’re fucking nails done, having affairs, going to Pilates class or whatever bad parents do….I’m a good daddy.’”  What happened?  

Anthony Bourdain is gone and a week later I’m still bummed. The tour has come to an abrupt and an unexpected end. The only part that remains unknown is who will take his place.

I know the answer to that – no one. He was much too one of a kind. People like to call him the “bad boy” but I don’t like that moniker. It’s too simple, too plain and let’s face it too Kid Rockish and that in itself is enough to make me throw up in my mouth. Anthony Bourdain was too intelligent and too complex to be a bad boy. Avant garde maybe but certainly not a bad boy. Bad boys don’t write insightful books and articles; they don’t write screenplays for the HBO series Treme.  And I can’t come up with any boys bad or good, or girls for that matter who can take something as seemingly basic as a travel show and challenge us to think.  

Let’s have a Bourdain moment and be honest – that’s what he would do, right? Why are some of us devastated over Bourdain’s passing? Because we’re fucking selfish. There will be no more episodes of Parts Unknown; no more books; no more brilliant articles and commentaries; hell, no more Guy Fieri jokes.

But isn’t that why we get broken up over the passing of a friend or family member? We miss everything that friend brought to our lives. We miss that we will no longer be a part of his or her life even if we felt connected from afar. Those of us who watched his shows and read his books found in him a guileless, straightforward no bullshit friend who’s been taken from our lives. He was that guy who would drift into our home once a week with a six pack of beer and then tell us a story.  The visits are done. Our Sunday evenings have a hole that we can’t fill. The game’s over and there’s no rematch

We’re depressed because the last course is done, we didn’t even get dessert and now we’re just left with the dishwater; Man vs. Food, Worst Cooks in America and Guy fucking Fieri.

Money may be abundant but bullshit we’ve still got plenty of.”

“I know how old most seafood is on Monday – about four to five days old.”

“There’s something wonderful about drinking in the afternoon. A not-too-cold pint, absolutely alone at the bar.”

To a graduating class of would be chefs.  Learn Spanish. The very backbone of the industry, whether you like it or not, is inexpensive Mexican, Dominican, Salvadorian and Ecuadorian labor – most of whom would cook you under the table without breaking a sweat.”     Take that Trump.

Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.”

“…there are two types of people in the world; those who do what they say they are going to do – and everyone else.”

“Like I said before, your body is not a temple. It’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”



One thought on “Bourdain. Personal Thoughts

  1. Scott Blake says:

    When you hadn’t done a post in a while, I figured that the next one would be about the unique character who was Anthony Bourdain. I’m not going to try to add to what you wrote about why his shows and books are so compelling, you did so better than I could. I will comment about him compared with Guy Fieri. Fieri reminds me of one of those little shits who would glom onto you at a party until you’re ready to bolt for the door. His backward sunglasses and way too loud behavior overtook his good parts; the Camaro and the cool diners, drive-ins, and dives he visited. He comes across as a made for TV phony, Bourdain came across as a real person.

    You wrote about how family dinners have gone the way of the Edsel. Also a culprit in that is the obsession so many people have with their shitty little phones and other electronic gadgets. Go into a restaurant and observe groups at a table. See with disgust how many are futzing with their phones and ignoring the company of their companions.

    You also wrote about how the Food Network has gone to hell in a bucket. Same goes for the History Channel. Used to be you could turn on either one any time of day and find something interesting to watch. Now they’re all about so-called reality shows, which are as far from reality as the Tweeting Twit in the Oval Office is far from being a worthwhile president.

    The Parts Unknown episode in Vietnam is one of my favorites. Besides the comments about ketchup on hot dogs, my other favorite part was Bourdain asking Obama how often he was able to step out for a beer.

    The easy thing to say is “How could he have done this, he had it made”. That is as realistic as saying about a couple divorcing “They had a great marriage”. It seems obvious that he had some degree of bipolar disorder. He made more than one reference, seemingly in jest, about a situation that would annoy him so much to make him want to hang himself. In the weeks prior to his death, colleagues said he was almost irrationally giddy about his recent Parts Unknown episode on Hong Kong, calling it the best thing he had done. Contrast that with the show after that in Berlin. That episode was dark and gloomy in some ways. His friend Eric Ripert, who was in France with him to film an episode, said he had been in a dark mood for the previous few days.

    His death is maybe the clearest indicator of his being bipolar. Lacking a suicide note, it’s been pretty much accepted that his suicide was an impulsive act. Most people don’t end their day thinking “Maybe I want to read a bit before bed or take an evening stroll. No, I think I’ll kill myself.” Maybe if everyone who is ready to kill themselves took the time to write a suicide note, there would be more people who decided against the fatal act.

    I’ve read that in the past few months, Bourdain had an exhausting work schedule. Maybe that drove him to it. I disagree with your daughter’s belief that suicide is a selfish act. She has young kids and knows that Bourdain left behind a young daughter, so I can see her viewpoint. I agree with you about dread of Alzheimer’s. I also feel that way about becoming blind or paralyzed. I’d rather be dead than live (if that can be called living) with any of those maladies. If that’s selfish, I don’t give a rat’s ass. Everyone has a life and, even though other people are involved in that life, it’s still that person’s life. If a person decides they’ve had enough, that’s their prerogative. I also disagree that suicide is a cowardly act. I think it takes a degree of strength to do what it takes to end one’s life, knowing that nobody gets a mulligan once they’ve ended their life.

    Nobody knows what it’s like to be someone else. Your wife, kids, friends, colleagues, none of them know what it’s like to be you, to live in your body, to live in your mind. My dad had a collection of a dozen or so guns. Years ago, when he decided to sell them, he offered to give me any weapon I chose. I turned that offer down. If I had taken one of those pistols (I especially liked his Dan Wesson .357 magnum), I can’t say for certain that at some point in recent years I wouldn’t have used it on myself.

    Everyone has a breaking point. My health problems have been so difficult to live with in recent years that almost daily during the worst times, I would mutter “I can’t go on living like this”, at the same time realizing that I’ve said it many times over the years. Does that mean I can go on living like this or does it mean that I haven’t reached that breaking point? I don’t know the answer to that. There have been times that I’ve awakened and thought “Damn, I’m still alive”. Does that mean I’m suicidal or want to end my life? I don’t think so, at least not at this point. I do know that I’ve often thought “If this is as good as my life is going to get, I don’t want the damned thing any more”.

    Everyone has a breaking point. Did Bourdain reach his, or did he make an impulsive decision? Without a suicide note, we probably will never know. What I do know is that any time I hear of a suicide, celebrity or otherwise, I realize that for most of us our breaking point may be closer than we care to realize.

    I’m sad that the world is deprived of such a unique character. In a world that has decided that drug abuse or alcohol abuse is a sickness, it’s refreshing that Bourdain refused to buy into such crap and labeled his excesses what they were, bad choices and decisions. As you do, I often get irritated by those who have decided that vegan/vegetarian is the only way to live and have made it their business to try to convert all the carnivores and omnivores. It makes me think of Frank Zappa’s comment “Tobacco is my favorite vegetable”, which seems to be the prevalent thinking in southern Oregon.

    We mourn the loss of such a character as Bourdain but are thankful that he lives on in his books and his TV shows. How can anyone not like someone who, instead of piously saying “My body is a temple”, said “Your body is not a temple. It’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” Goodbye Anthony and thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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