Friday, June 8, 2018

And Lord, He Could Wear A Pair Of Levis

We always ask why. We want to know, why? 
How could they? Why did they? What was so horrible, so painful that a beautiful mind felt the need to let go of it all, permanently?
And we never really know, do we?

Anthony Bourdain never seemed like the kind of guy who would keep such painful secrets.
And yet at the same time he seemed like exactly that kind of guy.
Still. His first book was all about the telling of the secret things that go on in the kitchens of restaurants. He didn't hold back. And he was like Keith Richards in the way that he absolutely admitted to past indiscretions freely. His years of drug use. His depression.

Which book of his did I read in which he described a massive depression he suffered not long after the first flush of fame came upon him? He described living on an island somewhere idyllic and drinking himself senseless every night and driving home on scary roads in which he flirted with the idea of death ceaselessly.
I don't remember.

But like Keith, it always seemed that he had the desire and the will and the ability to pull himself up and out by his art. People describe him as a "food writer" which somehow denigrates the actual writing but should not. And food was merely the platform from which he dove with his words. Proust may have had his madeleine but Bourdain had every food that humans can consume in his repertoire. And it was the humans who ate all those foods in which he was truly interested.
The humans and where they lived and how they lived and what sustained them, brought them sustenance and comfort, how they celebrated and what they ate when they did.
His shows were amazing. Yes, he went to fine restaurants and got into the kitchens and talked to the famous chefs but he was known more for sitting around a fire with people who have lived the same way for thousands of years, drinking with them, eating with them, trying to learn not how they were different from him, but how they were the same.

He was filmed drinking and drunk and hungover. He was filmed tripping on psychedelics. He was filmed almost nude and in shorts and flip flops. His face grew more graven and carved as the years passed and his face always seemed to reflect an eternal curious honesty. You could see fatigue there, you could see a sort of reserved merriment. You could see life. His stride continued to be long and his hips continued to be lean. He got more tattoos. He slurped noodles with President Obama sitting on a plastic stool in Viet Nam, he asked him if America was going to be okay.
He ate a patty melt and hashbrowns at the Waffle House.
He and his crew were trapped in a hotel room in Beirut while the airport was bombed a mile away. When he got safely home, he told his wife he wanted them to have a baby.
They did.
The marriage didn't survive but it seemed as if that child was the light and love of his life.
And part of me wants to be mad at him- how COULD he leave that little girl behind? And part of me just wonders how horribly he must have been suffering to leave that little girl behind.

Some celebrity deaths leave us, if not unmoved, then relatively undisturbed.
And some rock us. The deaths of people who have moved us, touched us, caused us to feel things, to see things, to experience something that no one else ever caused us to feel or experience.
For me it's the death of people who have always appeared to be the survivors. Who, against the odds (what a stupid phrase) did something with their lives that somehow changed everything. Or something.
But mostly us.

God damn, Anthony. I sure am glad you were here.
I sure am sorry you are gone.
I sure am sorry you were in that much pain.

We may never know why you chose to leave the way you did but in the end, that's not our business. It was your choice and you made it.
Thanks for hanging out with us. You were a magnificent human being.

No reservations, man.
May you find peace in those parts unknown.


  1. This was the saddest news to wake up to today. I hate the thought of anyone feeling the level of sadness and despair it must take to decide that being alive just isn't worth it anymore. It's just heartbreaking.

  2. You just summed up exactly how I'm feeling today and asking the same hard questions. I realize now why my stomach feels like it's been punched since I first heard the news...because he was a survivor and I thought he'd always be around. Damn it. Damn depression to all hell. X

  3. I was rocked by the news of his death, too. And you know, he always did remind me of Keith Richards, the deep groves in that face, the fuck you survivor mentality, the capacity for connection. And thank you for this: "The deaths of people who have moved us, touched us, caused us to feel things, to see things, to experience something that no one else ever caused us to feel or experience." Yes, exactly this.

  4. The news is harder to take, day by day.Even my trainer knows of the man and our loss and told me this morning. Thank you for cutting him adrift for us, though watching the boat drift into the mists will be a long vigil.

  5. Beautifully written Mary, thanks.


  6. This is such a well-written tribute, Mary! Thank you for writing it. And he had to have been suffering beyond measure to leave his daughter. You are so right. I sent you an e-mail with a link last night. I hope you got it. I will phone soon. I love you.


  7. Oh Mary, nail on the head! I could see in his face despair especially these past few episodes. I wondered- now we are certain, the wondering and worry verified. Loved this man and his persona- Rebel rebel,handsome head to toe. An act of courage, I reckon.

  8. On Mary you've said so beautifully all the things I feel. I will miss him.It's truly horrendous that mental health care and caring is almost non existent in this supposedly great country. My heart breaks for everyone affected by depression.

  9. beautiful post Ms Moon. I was heartbroken this morning to read the news..... imagining the pain and despair he must have lived with ...... it's anguish to think about it. He will be sorely missed - I so enjoyed and loved him and thought he had been able to rise above his we all thought, yes?
    Susan M

  10. Anthony's death has left me deeply distraught. I can't find the words to express it...but somehow I knew you would. And you did. Thank you, Mary. May his soul be at peace.
    Angie D

  11. I keep coming back here to read this. It’s so beautifully said. The best thing I’ve read about him all day. I wish his family could see this.

  12. it's a beautiful eulogy. I know/knew nothing of the man, never saw his show, never read his books.

  13. This was exactly what I needed to read. I literally went to my computer to see what you'd have to say. I knew it would be a balm for my soul. You are wise. I'm thankful for you.

  14. This made me cry. Your writing is so beautiful and you captured his sad passing in such a heartfelt, heartfelt way. Thank you. Thank you.

  15. What a beautiful tribute. I read "Kitchen Confidential" several years ago and enjoyed it, but I can't say I followed Bourdain's work all that closely. I never saw any of his TV shows, for example. Still, just like Kate Spade, it is a surprise and a tragedy. Are we certain it was intentional? I heard some speculation that it may have been an accident, but I'm not up on the latest.

    1. Oh -- never mind. Just read an updated story. Definitely not accidental.

  16. Oh, he so could wear a pair of Levis. My son and I followed and loved and watched many of his shows over again. Such ease in whatever company he found himself. I particularly remember him with Jim Harrison for some reason. Rebecca sent me here, for which I am so glad. All your posts breathe humanity back into a world that seems to have lost it. Thank you for your open heart, your clear words, your caring. xo


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