Time has passed and passed and passed and, sure enough, it’s been a year since I last wrote anything longer than a tweetstorm.
But, as I’m beginning to see as a pattern, today was a really hard day for me, and so I needed to sort through my emotions through writing. It’s difficult to explain why it was hard, except that Anthony Bourdain died today.
Still, that doesn’t explain much, really. I’d seen a few of his shows, but I never met the man or even followed his career with any depth. When my boyfriend mentioned the news this morning in passing, I was briefly shocked, but it didn’t register as an immediately devastating fact. It was a piece of trivia, albeit sad.
And, maybe it’s embarrassing to admit, but then I began reading all of the many, many personal accounts and essays and tributes to him. They were extraordinary. Part of me is ashamed that it took his death for me to seek out these stories, but, then again, how would I have known to do it otherwise? Death is a strange time that makes us reflect, piece together our fragmented recollections of a person and offer them to each other and to the void in solace. We take stock of a human life in its entirety. And, in this case, no one had a bad word to say, and most had so many good ones.
In this man who was so distant from my life in every respect, I found an unexpected kinship. There are often celebrities I admire or respect or like; there are so rarely celebrities with whom I identify on a fundamental level. Anthony Bourdain would have been one.
He was infuriatingly and effortlessly eloquent, with a bluntness that gave his prose an electrifying quality that so few writers can achieve. He was unapologetically honest to himself and others. He was a romantic disguised as a self-described cynic. He was an unabashed individualist — though not a contrarian, a word I despise — and liked what he liked, trends be damned.
He used what leverage he had to fight for what was right, even when that was an anomaly for someone in his position and industry. He made some of this world, in so many large and grandiose to small and seemingly inconsequential ways, closer. He was open and curious and entranced with the people and places around him. He was kind.
There was a quote, from Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, that has stayed with me all day. It’s about travel, but it ultimately says so much more about life and how we should live as fully and as feelingly as we possibly can.
Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.
I reflected a lot today on how Anthony Bourdain lived and how I want to live. How can I be more authentic? How can I be more inquisitive? How can I be more compassionate? How can I say yes more often? How can I live and love and hate (yes, even that) with more fullness and richness and joy?
I worry that I’m bandwagoning by writing this letter or even by feeling sad. I’m not sure I have any right to be. It is puzzling and unexpected for me to feel this magnitude of poignant emotion around Anthony Bourdain’s death. It feels disingenuous and empty, in a way, not to have loved him dearly long ago. But then I think that that’s the power of a life well-lived — to have touched so many so deeply that you move people after you’re gone.
Tonight, I’m going to visit one of the San Francisco restaurants Anthony Bourdain loved. I hope it’s the first of many places he takes me.