I have a few things I want to say. Everyone else has been saying what was on their minds, so I’m going to take my turn, too. It’s been a hard couple of days. I consider myself pretty emotionally tough; I have the ability to compartmentalize difficult, even traumatic situations. I have the ability to move on from a lot of things without looking back. Some would probably consider me aloof or even cold, but I feel comfortable being able to go through life without getting mired down in too many emotions. But this one was bad. I did a good job of hiding it, but it really is bothering me, and I’ve been thinking about it almost constantly.
I don’t know how many times I’ve mentioned Anthony Bourdain on this blog. At least once a year, maybe more often. Certainly not as often as I talked about him. A fraction as often as I watched his vast collection of TV work. I can’t really express definitively how he effected me with his words, his manner and his presentation. A lot of people have been trying to express that same feeling since we heard about his death. There are numerous facets to my feelings about his passing; part of me is a bit angry, wondering why. Part of me is infinitely sorry, mostly for his daughter, his brother, his best friend and his television family, whom he ultimately spent more time with than those he was related to by blood. Part of me is hopeful; I have struggled with depression in the past and still occasionally deal with anxiety, and although I could never imagine exactly what he was going through, I know that when you’re near the bottom, that seems like a viable option. My hope is that wherever he is now, he found the solution, and maybe some happiness.
I think the thing about him that resonated the most with me was his genuine love for and curiosity about food, and although he had a strong mastery of the English language, he was unabashedly plain-spoken. He told it like it was. If it was ugly, he told you. If it was sad, he told you. If he was disgusted by where he was, what was happening, or even himself, he would tell you. I think that’s why his relationship with the Food Network didn’t last very long. He didn’t belong there. I have this theory about things that are what I call, “Disney-fied.” Places, things, people, even ideas that are glossed over and painted to look like everything is sunny and comes out perfectly 365 days a year, just for the purpose of feeding the masses not what they want, but what you want them to have, and making as much money off of them as possible. I always felt like the Food Network started with a good thing and then just kept dressing it up until it was Disney-fied. Bourdain could never be like that; he was too real, and he wasn’t going to dress anything up. You got it as he saw it, and I think that’s why he had such an impact on so many people.
I loved that he used food as a vehicle for getting people from different backgrounds to understand each other. Namely, Americans understanding that there were other cultures in the world besides that of America. On a personal level, he made me more adventurous as far as food is concerned, and expanded my knowledge of political and social structures throughout the world. I also enjoyed watching him change over the years. Seeing how, after he had traveled all over and experienced “all the things” as the kids say these days, he seemed to kind of come full circle, spending a little more time discovering the lesser-lauded areas of the US and the peoples of those areas. Not that he needed anyone’s approval, but I was proud of him for that. I also appreciated his philanthropic work; you should always try to use your powers for good, and I believe he did that. I think part of it was that he saw how much bad was being done, and maybe wanted to strike a bit of a balance. And also, he was just a good guy with a damn big heart.
I’m sorry you were in so much pain, Tony. I feel like the majority of what you did in this life – initiating conversation between people – is ironically what could help those of us who do suffer with mental illness and other emotional issues. Just about everyone who has spoken about him has offered resources for people to turn to if they are having these issues, but my reference is to turn to someone you care about. A friend, a family member or another loved one. Even if you’ve never had a conversation “like that”, now is the time. If they really love you (and they do) they will listen. And if you’re on the other side of that conversation; listen. Let them know you love them. Let them know that they are important to you, that they make a difference in your life just by being in it. If we just start talking about our fears and concerns instead of being ashamed. If we just start listening when our loved ones tell us something’s wrong instead it writing off.
So that’s it. For now anyway. Grief works in funny ways, and I’m going to be mourning him for a long time. Fun Fact for those of you who didn’t know much about him: he actually wrote a few novels. One of them – a favorite – is called Bone in the Throat. Hence the title of this post. No cute, staged, Pinterest-worthy photos in this one. You’ll just have to take my words for it.