“I should’ve died in my 20s. I became successful in my 40s. I became a dad in my 50s. I feel like I’ve stolen a car –a really nice car– and I keep looking in the rearview mirror for flashing lights. But there’s been nothing yet.” Anthony Bourdain
Today is always a hard day for me. A day to be endured and survived.
When I awoke and saw the horrible news that Anthony Bourdain had taken his life, and on this particular date, I was slammed by so many feelings at once.
I know many are mocked when they grieve a public person in a personal way, but the ignorance in that sentiment is that these people have been in our homes. Sometimes daily.
We spend time with them when we can’t face the thought of being with our own people and trying to explain why we hurt. We hope they take our minds off our own shit and we feel not so alone in the world when they are with us.
Sometimes it is just their voice on the television, during our self-imposed disconnection to space and time – on our couches or in our beds, that keeps us tethered by a delicate strand to the rest of the world.
June 8 2002 is the day I had a horrific accident in my car with a freight train.
My passenger, a beautiful young girl, died on top of me in the car. (Official version to keep questions to a minimum.)
In reality, her head was severed from her body and was in my lap.
I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following that accident, and had no control over the thoughts that appeared in my head forever after that.
Over the years, I have gathered many tools in my toolbox, and am pretty happy with my ability to quickly pull them out as needed. It is exhausting, but I always quickly remind myself that the alternative to surviving and being left in this state is not and has never been an option for me.
I am fortunate in that I have not ever suffered with depression as so many others do. My thing is crippling anxiety and panic attacks, and as long as I can get myself to my safe place internally, all is good.
Following my discharge from the hospital all those years ago, I spent many, many days at home on my couch, watching Anthony on A Cook’s Tour, and would drift in and out of my opiate dreams to the sound of his voice. I could fall asleep on a tour of Tokyo, and awaken in Cambodia with Tony, traveling the narrow aisles of the market, joking with the locals and joyously taking in the beautiful tastes and culture of the places we traveled together.
I just knew his was a soul I connected to. He had the same absolute enjoyment, interest and fascination with other cultures and their ways of living that I have always had. The intuitive respect and understanding that the differences are what brings us closer together.
His was a wandering spirit, as is mine. I know he was not always in the same place his physical body was in, and that his mind went even more places than he ever showed us on his many programs.
And to be superficial but honest? He was so hot.
Most recently, his passionate support for the #metoo movement made me love and admire him even more. For a man of his age and generation, to stand beside and sometimes in front of women that were being brutally crucified on social media, showed me his heart and what a wonderful human being he was at the core.
Years ago, after recuperating from my physical injuries and in a good place with the mental ones, I thought of writing him and thanking him for “being there” for me during my recovery. I wanted him to know that he played such a huge part daily in my healing. And then I scoffed at myself that someone as famous as him likely receives so much mail, that he couldn’t possibly have time to read it all.
Hearing that he took his life today makes me wish I had reached out to him back then. Just on the off-chance that he did see that letter.
So he would know in those places inside him that hurt, that he had healed another person just by being himself and sharing his life and experiences with us all.
That he had made a difference in my life and at a time when I was most vulnerable and alone, he provided me with something more important than a culinary masterpiece – he gave me hope that if I could survive one more day, I could perhaps travel with him from my home to the next exotic place.
Rest in Peace Anthony – what a life and legacy you leave behind.