Anthony Bourdain State of Mind

Forgive me I'm out of practice. I haven't written much here or anywhere in the last few years. I blame it on Prozac. My desire or need to express myself out loud, in words, has been stifled. I'm just not that inspired, compelled, or motivated. I think my open-ended drug prescription has been a prescription for mild numbing of my emotions and a physical laziness which makes keeping it all inside less taxing. It is the price I pay to feel safer and saner. But don't think for a second that the thought treadmill has slowed down; it hasn't. It just doesn't want to be witnessed in action as of late. Today is an exception.

It has been almost a week since famed travel and food anthropologist Anthony Bourdain took his last breathby choice. Or was it really a choice? That is debatableat another time, in a separate blog entry, with a different state of mind.

Anthony's suicide ruffled my dormant feathers, stirred my still pot of stagnant soup stockreviving it to a vibrant simmer. I haven't been able to brush-aside thoughts of what he meant to me: how he inspired me and changed my perceptions of foodways, foreign cultures, hospitality, and what it means to being a gracious guest. (Wish I had that last one down before travelling to Europe in the early 90's. What a ninny I was back then. What is the common phrase? Oh yes: an ignorant, arrogant, spoiled American.) I'm not the only person to share these sentiments, of course. Millions caught the Bourdain virus. We became a collective of foodies, chefs, travel enthusiasts, social scientists and common curious folks who loved and respected this snarky, creative, talented, hilarious, insightful genius.

Like many, my love of all things Bourdain began with his best selling book, Kitchen Confidential. It was the starting point. It captured my imagination and forever cemented my space in his global fandom. I thought, "Who is this guy? What insight! What wit! He became my intellectual heroalong with the late Christopher Hitchens. Both had chutzpah and charisma, could hold court, make one laugh out loud and cheer with utter gratitude to both for having the kahunas to unapologetically articulate human truths with such clarity and originality. Although Bourdain chose the destination and context, we were always involved in the adventure.

I can't claim to know why Anthony Bourdain decided to leave a party he was hosting. Even those closest to him are left with questions without answers. And so we'll keeping searching for these answers until we become comfortable with ambiguityif we ever do. For his family and friends, this may take yearshindered by what ifs and guilt and possibly even angerat him for taking his life and at themselves for failing to prevent this tragedy. The French detective in charge of the case stated he thinks it was an impulsive actnot premeditatedas if to ease the burden of the survivors who failed to see the warning signs. But truly, all suicides are premeditated. Perhaps no note is left behind, no weapon of choice purchased weeks in advance. But my reasonable mind informs me that all suicides have a modicum of preparationof forethought. What evidence do I have to substantiate this claim in the case of Bourdain's suicide? Two things: he wanted to die in France and he wanted Eric Ripert to be the one to find his lifeless body.

France is where it all began. Tony fell in love with food and adventure while on holiday there as a child. It was with his first taste of a fresh-from-the-water oyster: "It tasted of seawater...of brine and flesh...of the future." "...I'd learned something. Viscerally, instinctively, spirituallyeven in some small way sexuallyand there was no turning back. The genie was out of the bottle. My life as a cook, and as a chef had begun." (From the opening pages of Kitchen Confidential.) And as where it all began for Tony, it also ended.

Why Eric Ripert? For one he is Frenchable to navigate France's laws and mores surrounding death procedures. Secondly, he was Tony's best friendhis confidant, his colleague, the person he trusted the most who loved him unconditionallythe one person whom he felt would protect his dignity and privacy after his death. Believing this so, makes me feel slightly less troubled knowing Anthony was not alone. Not really. He was loved, cherished, respected and best of all understood by at least one other person. Is that enough to keep one living? Apparently not. But it does offer my mind some peace. Comforts me. Calms me. Lets the feathers relax again and the soup return to a stillnessfor now.


I am totally with you on the forethought.
Suicide is not an impulsive act.
If, for no other reason, than that of the cumulative nature of grief and one's varying inability to bear it.
I have a cross between admiration, pity, and a deep conviction that the mind capable of carrying out such, is deranged to a degree that I have only ever been close enough to fantasize about. I hope I would find myself capable of it if I needed to bite my cyanide capsule, for whatever intolerable event I faced.
I have always been such a "wait and see" sort of girl, I can't imagine not wondering what happens next.
I am also constantly surviving my own stupidity with something of a grace given only by a deity in which I do not believe.
(But, if there was a God, with a capital G, they would know how much I would adore the irony of that sort of thing and probably keep their eye on me and their protection around me out of humour!)
Or, spite!
Oh, wait, I think the Christian god, 2.0 isn't that way. Anymore.
The "other" thing always in the back of my mind, is that I'd survive myself, best efforts to kill me, notwithstanding, and end up a vegetable, aware, and incapable of further efforts.
I'm also fairly masochistic, if you analyze my behaviour, and a bit too given to wallowing in my own misery to ever stop inflicting it upon me, much less, have the nards to relieve myself of it permanently.
Do you see why I could never accept that someone capable of it hasn't given it extensive thought?!
Sometimes, the fantasy of it, and the thought process just outlined above, are the chief things that give me the strength to carry on suffering.
When I'm suffering.
I'm okay, today.
I know what you mean by being stirred, as well.
I have an epic of a blog entry currently brewing, but I have not yet been motivated into confession.
It isn't far off, though.
Perhaps, if my keyboard didn't have a sticky space bar, I would do it now!
Always nice to read your thoughts on things here!
Don't let that fluxotine lull you onto a plateau!
Hilarious name for a SSRI!
I've always thought so!
Hi Charlie!

Absolutely love and agree with the sentiments you expressed in your reply. Thanks for taking the time and effort to share those thoughts.
Enjoy may be a less than apt description for the contents of an obituary, even if it’s a memorial to life, and yet I can say I enjoyed your fond farewell to Mr. Bourdain. If we outlive ourselves, this approximates the best way we can go about haunting posterity: to have our loves and lusts, how we appreciated and how we provoked, clearly broadcast for the benefit of the living. And this is what I’ve read now about Anthony Bourdain.
Dear Charlie,

Happy to see you here. I agree that forethought is a part of all suicides. Like you say, how could it not be? The list of the achievements that are aches, distant failures that persist to the day, and the capacity to replay them endlessly leaves me surprised that the world isn’t one large Japanese suicide forest.

Friends and the arts and writing make life liveable for me. Reaching up through pain is what anyone taunted by suicide aims to do, I think. Or, to reverse a poem’s title, “Not drowning, waving.”

Write soon x

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