I probably first discovered Bourdain in about 2007. This was during his time at No Reservations back when I still had cable. It was well before anybody really knew who he was. At this point he was just another obscure cable television host.
Sure, those in the food scene knew him and he’d written a relatively famous book. But most average folks had no idea who he was. I got immediately hooked on No Reservations and ended up watching most episodes.
It was also at this point that Bourdain began to become a wider part of the food / travel scene and also our wider modern culture. I remember he gave some interview online and I forwarded it to my brothers. I think they thought this was weird, and were like, who’s this random guy?
But years after that I remember my brother forwarding me a radio interview he’d done. Bourdain in a few short years had gone from relative obscurity to being well known across a variety of circles.
I kind of kept in touch with what Bourdain was doing over the years but never really got into Parts Unknown. Whenever I was at the airport or entirely bored in a hotel, if it was on, I’d watch it. But I never sought it out.
Part of my issue with Parts Unknown is it had a poor food to travel ratio. This was also the case with later episodes of No Reservations. I could be entirely mistaken but it seems as time went on, more and more of each episode was just Tony eating. Whereas in say 2007 most of the episode was travel focused.
Again I could be wrong, that’s just my impression. I like food too, but the most compelling parts of No Reservations to me was never the food, but always Bourdain traveling and giving his thoughts on life and the local areas.
Ultimately what drew folks to Bourdain was his ability to to put himself into the shoes of anybody on the planet, understand them, capture that, and then explain it to somebody else not there.
This is not an easy skill to master and employ. And one that if you spend eight seconds on social media and the news, that most folks don’t even care to learn. Today’s culture seems to be about conquest, not understanding.
And that was never Bourdain. And that’s why people like me who are just not into celebrities or modern culture sort of worshiped this guy’s message.
One of the most compelling episodes is where Bourdain spends time with Ted Nugent. A guy who even his most fervent supporters could not deny is a total lunatic. Bourdain had his politics too, but he always wore it with a light touch, something other entertainers could learn a lot from.
I forget the line, I’m summarizing, but Bourdain essentially says something like: I don’t have to agree with you, to like you. If I’m remembering this right, then that line should be tattooed onto everybody’s skull cavity today.
I’ve avoided thus far writing about his death, so I could think on it. In the end, sadly I believe he’ll be known to many as just another celebrity who killed themselves. I don’t know why he did it. Nobody ever will I suppose. It doesn’t matter though. Life is sacred, but suicide is all too easy.
My coworkers and I found another coworker at a gas station with a whiskey bottle and a loaded pistol in his lap. I still get the shakes wondering what if we’d been a half-hour late. Like most people who’ve been to the darkest of places, once or twice I was probably at very serious risk of suicide. My family, my friends, my dogs, my coworkers helped me back. But essentially, suicide is no joke, and it’s everywhere. Even when somebody seems like they’re okay, you should always be there to help, always be there for somebody, because you never know what’s going on inside somebody’s head. Nobody can do life alone.
I suppose in the end, all I can say is that there are many, many voices in today’s world. Most of them are simply not worth listening to. Anthony Bourdain was a voice to absorb, and to pass on.
We need more people like him.