...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, June 11, 2018


(Photo via Facebook/@PartsUnknownCNN)

I have never felt so devastated by the death of a public figure. Though I didn't know him personally, I experienced heavier bouts of emotion over Friday morning's news of Anthony Bourdain's suicide than I have over the loss of a number of people in my life. It takes me a long time to emotionally respond to a loss, sometimes years. But this time it was different. Some reasons behind my feelings are linked to my own issues, while others are bigger than me.

Though my choices of evening viewing differ vastly from Kristen's preferences, she and I loved Bourdain's productions. It got the point where we just called all his shows "Tony", as in "Wanna watch Tony tonight?" His book, Kitchen Confidential, is still striking, not necessarily for the salacious details, but for the hyperkinetic stream-of-consciousness blast of its final chapter. It's even better when you can hear his gorgeous voice in your head as the words speed by.

Throughout his work, Food was always a front for People. At first it was barely apparent, starting with the sarcastic generalizations in Confidential. But by the time Parts Unknown came out, culinary concerns were an afterthought. Yes, "street food" or "peasant food" is great, but who were these people behind it? Episode after episode, he sat down at kitchen tables with families, ate grandmas' dishes, drank papas' booze, easing everyone into questions about their lives. He made this enormous difficult world feel closer and more human.

It was this progression that was so moving. Though he long preferred to keep his personal life out of the public eye, his development was burningly public.

Before our eyes, a man grew up. The punk became an elder. He showed us something we never really see from public figures, that a man can be stridently, classically masculine and thoughtful and loving and drawn to those who struggle and hurt (see the Massachusetts episode of Parts Unknown and his balls-out support of the #MeToo movement). It was an awakening sadly unique to our time.

I am so thankful Anthony Bourdain invited us to join him on his journey. He was the greatest of guides, and one of my last heroes. May you be in peace, Tony.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this reflection. You might also like this one from David Simon: http://davidsimon.com/tony/