R.I.P., Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain was working on a project to bring a market modeled on Singapore’s hawker centers to Manhattan. He wanted it to bring to mind “Blade Runner” — “high-end retail as grungy, polyglot dystopia.”

It seems the chef, globetrotter and raconteur Anthony Bourdain decided to burn out rather than fade away.

I can’t really say I was a fan; more of a bemused admirer, and from a safe distance, too. I read “Kitchen Confidential,” and my main takeaway beyond “Hell, no, I don’t ever want to cook in a pro kitchen” was that he’d be a tough dude to spend a lot of time around, even if you weren’t working for him.

But man, did he ever find his place in the world. Actually, not so much “find” as “create.” It seems now that his life may have been one extended, complicated suicide attempt. “Kill me if you can, but in the meantime get the fuck out of my way because I got all this cool shit to do.”

This New Yorker piece by Patrick Radden Keefe examines Bourdain’s raison d’être, the original pitch for his evolving, “increasingly sophisticated iterations” of the same TV program:

“I travel around the world, eat a lot of shit, and basically do whatever the fuck I want.”

It may also contain his epitaph. Bourdain was a movie buff, and “Blade Runner” comes up a couple of times in the piece. I thought immediately of the conversation between Roy Batty and Eldon Tyrell, the chat which ended so badly for Batty’s creator:

“The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. And you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy.”

Batty would eventually check out, too. But not by his own hand.

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17 Responses to “R.I.P., Anthony Bourdain”

  1. Sharon Says:

    He was a good writer and supported other good writers, interesting musicians, cooks, and regular people of many other cultures. I’ve seen him at live performances where he talks out the cuff about his life experiences and he’s just real, raw and funny. He’s been very open about his flaws in the past. And a big voice of support for his girlfriend in the #metoo movement. I wonder if there may have been a skeleton that was unexposed. A lot of people found him annoying. But I was a fan from the start Kitchen Confidential and loved his travel show which examined places in a way never really done before. One of a kind for sure.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      He was a big fan of Jim Harrison, which obviously made him a right dude. I got a kind of Neal Cassady vibe from him, if Cassady had had a focus. Live life with gusto, take great big bites, and don’t leave any skid marks when you go.

      He also got the same line of shit — “Stop talking about politics!” — that people used to give me when I wandered afield in the bike mags. His response?

      “There’s nothing more political than food. Who eats? Who doesn’t?”

  2. khal spencer Says:

    Sad, and I suspect he had more to offer the planet than most. Second Important Person in a few days to voluntarily give up their space on the planet, i.e., Kate Spade.

    But I have started to wonder, at my increasing accrual of dotage, when its time to stay at the table and when its time to fold those cards and head home, wherever home is. Right now I feel great but what about ten or fifteen years from now, assuming a stock trader in a Mercedes doesn’t snuff me first? I watched some of my uncles, aunts, and grandparents get to the point where life was a chore for them and for everyone else. But last Saturday was reassuring as the four of us geezers scorched, ahem, those trails along the Rio Grande. You shoulda seen us…coulda taken on the Tour de France.

    The news carried a story on how U.S. suicide rates are rising sharply and I suspect that has more to do with the sorry state of much of the country, i.e., social isolation, income inequality, general meaninglessness, antisocial media, and drug addiction. But aside from that, its my life and if I get bored or am miserable, well…

    Or as Sgt. Daniel Joseph Day said to his Marines at Belleau Wood, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Another literary reference comes to mind: John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, in which Lee Chong muses:

      It was deeply a part of Lee’s kindness and understanding that man’s right to kill himself is inviolable, but sometimes a friend can make it unnecessary.

      It feels as though Bourdain had trouble making friends, the sort that could stay one’s hand if need arose.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Yeah. I had no shortage of friends, including friends with beer in the fridge, back in grad school when I was going through a particular black few months. I still thank them for putting up with me.

        • Sharon Reed Says:

          Deep friendships with those whom you can count on when you need them are everything. I constantly try to remind myself that to have these people and to nuture these relationships, one has to be one of these people too. Friends, music and a constant sense of wonder of the natural world help get me through the noise.

  3. Pat O'Brien Says:

    I just don’t get it. Never have. Probably willful ignorance on my part. Reminds me of a Tao te Ching chapter (translation by Stephen Mitchell) “success or failure, which is more destructive?” After looking at all the examples over the last 15 years or so, I think having too much can really scramble the signals in your little gray cells.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I’ve known quite a few suicides. Most came as complete surprises. The ones you expect to shove themselves off are rarely the ones who do it.

      I’ve never known whether it’s an act of desperation or optimism. Probably a little bit of both.

  4. khal spencer Says:

    Damn. And now this: Charles Krauthammer bids farewell.

    • Sharon Says:

      It seems ultimately, we are all on that same journey toward the horizon, though everyone has a different path.

      Words of wisdom Warren Zevon left us with right before he passed, “Enjoy every sandwich.” Indeed.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        I miss Warren Zevon. The Universe has a cruel sense of humor, taking Warren from us and leaving Darth Cheney to walk the earth.

        • khal spencer Says:


        • Pat O'Brien Says:

          Darth Cheney? This post is really starting to depress me. Perhaps it is time for a barley pop reality easer?

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          Bringing up the Dark Lord in this discussion is like farting in a crowded elevator on a hot day after a long lunch of 7-Eleven rotisserie wieners, Fritos and bean dip. It’s just wrong.

          You have my blessing as regards a delicious barley pop, if only to replace all the fluid you’re losing through your burning eyes. I’m fixin’ to have a fake one and take the cats out for an airing.

          • Pat O'Brien Says:

            I had a “fake one” for lunch. Barley malt is barley malt my friend, especially when it is roasted just right and combined with the right hops. Concerning Cheney the Dodger, your use of him as the worst of humanity was apt. He’s the classic example of chicken hawk baby killer.

            On a high note, it rained here today, Not more than a trace probably, but enough to get it running off the roof and to wet down the streets.

        • Libby Says:

          Gets me every time. Heartbreaking.

  5. larryatcycleitalia Says:

    It seems there are as many depressed rich and famous people as poor or middle-class anonymous ones. And they face the same stigma (or perhaps worse – “S–t, the guy’s f–king rich, what’s HE got to be depressed about?”) when it comes to seeking help.
    No surprise the suicide rate in the USA is going up – I’d like to know what the percentage is of those who off themselves watching Faux News? When I get to the point where life is no fun and all I am is a pain-in-the-a__, I tell the wife to get the rat poison and take care of the problem.

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