By Peabody Awards (Anthony Bourdain) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Anthony Bourdain killed himself today. I am devastated. Apparently millions of people are devastated too, because all of my social media feeds are a stream of grief over his suicide. The death part is hard, but the suicide part is harder and it makes me afraid.
My feeds have tributes from all over, the writers loved him, the foodies loved him, the TV world loved him. He was good at all these things, but before he was, he wasn’t. He was one of us. Washing dishes, slogging through countless shitty shifts waiting for a day off when he could sleep in, get high, do errands, get ready to do it all over again. But, he made it. Kitchen Confidential changed everything. He leveraged that fame into a way to follow his dream, and wrote Cook’s Tour. He was doing it. Traveling the world, eating food, writing about it. The way he wrote about life, and food, and work, was gritty, and frank, and dark, and funny. I devoured what he wrote, and listened to interviews where he talked about what books he liked to read, and read those too. Down and Out in Paris and London was one of his favorites, and soon became one of mine.
He ate at the finest restaurants in the world, but railed against food snobbery. Because, unlike many foodies, he understood that in many cases the people working in the kitchen could never afford to eat at the places where they worked. Sometimes, the best meal is a slice of deli ham and American cheese on a Hawaiian roll, squished flat and wrapped in foil. Sometimes, it’s a bowl of plain rice, because often its not about the food, is it? It’s about who made it for you, and why.
Tony Bourdain traveled and shared what he saw and what he learned with a huge audience. It’s telling that his show went from the Food Network to CNN. He was trying to make us less afraid of each other. He was trying to show us that at the core, we are all the same. We eat, we love our families, we try to chill out with our friends. And that is why I’m so scared.
I’m scared because, Tony Bourdain spent the last twenty-years or so traveling the world, embracing life, and trying to show us that it’s not so bad out here. We are all the same. There’s so much to see and do on this great planet. Another dish to try, another table to sit at, another story to write down. And still, he said, “I’m done. There’s nothing left.” Days before his death he was posting images of food, friends, gorgeous scenery. I followed him on Instagram, and his stories were often simple panoramas of the view from his room, or from the window of a car driving through some city, or recently the inside of an elevator. They were always accompanied by music. The Ramones, or Velvet Underground or the New York Dolls.
But, you never can tell, can you? We have to do better. We have to love each other more. We have to check-in each other more. We have to see each other face to face and hear each other’s voices more. And, most importantly, we have to love ourselves more. Because ultimately, we are the ones that keep fighting, that get help, that keep going. And sometimes, keeping going means sucking it up and asking for help, and you have to do it. You have to. The stigma of asking for and receiving help is nothing compared to the hole in world left by the death of a bright light. And don’t wait. Don’t wait until you are making that final decision. Call someone, anyone, and tell them what’s going on.
I consider myself lucky, because I have never struggled with depression, and I hope I never do. And today, I will eat something shitty, and rail against the man, and listen to Velvet Underground, and think about how much an ex-junkie dishwasher changed the world.
If you need help. Get it. I still believe this place ain’t so bad. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
We loved you, Tony.
Title for this post is from this song: