In memoriam: To the guts and bravado of Anthony Bourdain
I can remember those days clearly: Sitting with my dad as a child, the rain falling slowly outside and the sardonic yet calming voice of Anthony Bourdain on the television. By the time I was old enough to actually choose my own entertainment, I always loved Bourdain’s shows, from “No Reservations” to “Parts Unknown” and all the appearances and books in between. I stole my parents’ iPod and watched reruns on the tiny screen, wishing I could taste and feel the things this crazy, wonderful man did in all the crazy, wonderful places he went. Watching Bourdain was one of the ways my dad and I connected, through a shared love of people who didn’t give even one crap, leading to a joint adoration of a man who truly took his own advice. I felt as if I was friends with this man on the screen and the page, and continued to be a massive fan of the former chef as I grew up.
If I was sad or lost or needed some inspiration to whisk me away from suburbia, I turned on one of Bourdain’s shows and fell straight into the daring cuisine of Malaysia, light-saturated skylines of Tokyo or the cobblestone-lined streets of Cuba, far away from my problems and lack of adventure. Talking to people my own age, I found that this experience was not only mine, but a common thread between many teenage girls, their fathers and their search for whimsy in the unknown. Anthony Bourdain was not only charming and intelligent, but a people person too. He held no prejudices, ate what people gave him in an effort to connect and made connections with locals in the places he traveled, over a career that spanned decades. Those who followed his career would know that this sense of familiarity did not just end with the lucky few he actually met, but anyone who stumbled upon his work — Bourdain’s charisma was not intimidating, but welcoming, as if anyone who could stand their ground in conversation and consumption was a guest in his life.
When I learned of his death earlier this week, I was absolutely and completely crushed. The details of Bourdain’s passing are devastating on their own, proof of a massive problem in our society which will take more than a phone number to fix. It is impossible to imagine what his family is experiencing right now, and for that, I will give the issue its space. Instead, I feel that it is more useful right now to celebrate what the iconic man achieved, created and meant to all of us than settle into grief. Bourdain was a professional live-r, if there ever was a thing. He had a job that any of us would kill for, a career explained by the man himself in a New Yorker interview as “I travel around the world, eat a lot of shit and basically do whatever the fuck I want.” But not all would have the guts and bravado to actually find success in that pursuit, to create something new and beautiful out of every dirty alley and shambly food truck.
Bourdain taught people of all ages to truly appreciate all the hidden magic around them, and for that he carried a bit of magic around himself. No matter the darkness he dealt with internally or encountered on his path, Bourdain’s piercing wit and exuberance for what the world had to offer was contagious. For that, we will miss him. For him, crack open a beer tonight and savor it. If there’s one thing we can learn from Anthony Bourdain’s life, it’s that you never know where your next adventure could be until you seek it out yourself.