Friday, June 8, 2018

RIP Tony Bourdain

“He taught us about food — but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown. We’ll miss him.” - President Barack Obama
"Stunned and saddened by the loss of Anthony Bourdain. He brought the world into our homes and inspired so many people to explore cultures and cities through their food. Remember that help is a phone call away US:1-800-273-TALK UK: 116 123" Gordon Ramsay on Twitter
     I don't write about celebrities. I'm a thriller novelist and political blogger. That's not my thing. I refuse to follow them on social media (except for Valerie Perrine and Carl Reiner and a few celebrity authors on Facebook). So when fashion icon Kate Spade hung herself in New York last week, I refrained from writing about it. But when I heard on Twitter this morning that Anthony Bourdain had also committed suicide in France, I felt compelled to write about it and his legacy.
     His sudden and absolutely senseless death hits especially hard in our household. Far from being just a celebrity chef and television personality, Bourdain was also a crime novelist of no mean ability and over the years I'd bought Mrs. JP quite a few of Bourdain's food-based standalone thrillers. In other words, as far as my friendship circle on Facebook goes, he was one of us. I'd watched his shows on the Food and Discovery Channels, although I never got to watch his award-winning show Parts Unknown on CNN.
     Anthony Bourdain was all wrong for literature and television. While telegenic, his attitude, caustic sense of humor and tattoos made him the kind of guy we'd warn our daughters about. Politically incorrect to the bone, he made his literary debut in the pages of the New Yorker with an expose entitled, "Don't Eat Before Reading This." He launched his career in letters with this paragraph:
Good food, good eating, is all about blood and organs, cruelty and decay. It’s about sodium-loaded pork fat, stinky triple-cream cheeses, the tender thymus glands and distended livers of young animals. It’s about danger—risking the dark, bacterial forces of beef, chicken, cheese, and shellfish. Your first two hundred and seven Wellfleet oysters may transport you to a state of rapture, but your two hundred and eighth may send you to bed with the sweats, chills, and vomits.
     It was a harbinger of things to come. Bourdain's particular brand of hedonism and Swiftian wit brought 120 nations in our living rooms over the years he was on television and made staring non-interactively at other peoples' meals entertaining. He was the fatalistic sort of person who never seemed interested in longevity. He was a smoker although tobacco has been linked to lung cancer. He couldn't get enough red meat ("When Tony comes to town, animals will die," he once said in the Middle East), even though red meat has been linked to prostate cancer. He imported his typical yet unique New York attitude all over the world and, in the process, through our food, the one constant for human existence, he made it a bit smaller.
     He mercilessly needled his fellow celebrity chefs, especially Emeril and the now-disgraced Mario Batalli with his rapier-like barbs. However, out of all the shows in which Bourdain starred, the one I will remember the most was the one that took place in Lebanon in 2006. Not long after Bourdain and his No Reservations crew had arrived to film another show, Israel had attacked southern Lebanon over the kidnapping of two of its soldiers, effectively killing the episode. Or so they thought. And it's a good thing they did film it- It went on to earn an Emmy nomination.
     Trapped in the hotel, with no safe way out, Bourdain grew restless then, being a chef down to his DNA, walked into the hotel's kitchen and began chopping up vegetables in front of the amazed Lebanese chefs because he didn't know what else to do with himself and his pent-up energies. Now, at this stage in his life, Bourdain didn't wear his politics on his sleeve (although that began changing with Parts Unknown on CNN). But to me, the crux of the episode was when he simply sat before a video camera in his hotel room and ad-libbed some lines about Bush being at a summit and Tony Blair trying to get him to focus on what was happening in Beirut. But Bourdain, now briefly turned into a war correspondent for Salon, used the opportunity to expand a bit on his displeasure at Bush and his embarrassing reaction to the second Lebanon war:
What is clear -- as far as we're concerned -- from all sources is that there is no official, announced plan. No real advice, or information, or public exit strategy or timetable. The news clip of President Bush, chawing open-mouthed on a buttered roll, then grabbing at another while Tony Blair tries to get him to focus on Lebanon -- plays over and over on the TV, crushing our spirits and dampening all hope with every glassy-eyed mouthful. He seems intent on enjoying his food; Lebanon a tiny, annoying blip on an otherwise blank screen. I can't tell you how depressing that innocuous bit of footage is to watch. That one, innocent, momentary preoccupation with a roll has a devastating effect on us that is out of all proportion. We're looking for signs. And this, sadly, is all we have.
     Tony Bourdain apparently learned long before George W. Bush that food doesn't count for a whole helluva lot while people are senselessly and brutally dying while you have the power to stop or at least mitigate it. He would show his emerging liberal sensibilities again in the season 11 premiere of Parts Unknown when he went to the heart of Trump country, West Virginia, and listened to, if not embraced, the political and social positions of the locals. The food was a mere sidelight.
     He dimly sensed there was some common, middle ground between his positions and theirs, although he was damned if he knew where and what that was. But in the process, he responded graciously to their hospitality and generosity (although they probably didn't take him seriously because he was a world-famous celebrity chef). And, if not a common meeting place aside from good Appalachian food, Bourdain found the means to respect them, a talent yours truly and many, many of us have yet to find in our own lives.
     Bourdain's suicide in Paris was senseless and tragic. It brings back the terrible specter of Robin Williams' own suicide and, much more recently, that of handbag designer Kate Spade. And it makes one wonder, if these rich and famous people, with their access to top notch health care, can still succumb to suicidal thoughts, what chance do the rest of us have? Last Sunday, CNN had aired what Bourdain considered to be the cultural highlight of his life. When their director left the show to have emergency surgery, the show was left without a director. After years of reaching out to them, Bourdain had finally obtained the services of director Asia Argento and cinematographer Christopher Doyle, whom Bourdain idolized. He ended his career and life on a cultural high note, making his suicide all the more senseless by conspicuous relief. He also left behind an 11 year-old daughter.
     Yet, while shocking and needless, it's vastly more important to remember what Bourdain did in his 61 years on this planet rather than to dwell on what he did in his final moments. He made the world fit into a TV screen through the food of six score nations while never forgetting those nations were inhabited by real people with real problems. And his greatest contribution to Mankind was in not eating and cooking long-forgotten meals but in finding the courage to walk in the shoes of others, no matter how much they may have pinched.


Post a Comment

<< Home

KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

All Time Classics

  • Our Worse Half: The 25 Most Embarrassing States.
  • The Missing Security Tapes From the World Trade Center.
  • It's a Blunderful Life.
  • The Civil War II
  • Sweet Jesus, I Hate America
  • Top Ten Conservative Books
  • I Am Mr. Ed
  • Glenn Beck: Racist, Hate Monger, Comedian
  • The Ten Worst Music Videos of all Time
  • Assclowns of the Week

  • Links to the first 33 Assclowns of the Week.
  • Links to Assclowns of the Week 38-63.
  • #106: The Turkey Has Landed edition
  • #105: Blame it on Paris or Putin edition
  • #104: Make Racism Great Again Also Labor Day edition
  • #103: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Toilet edition
  • #102: Orange is the New Fat edition
  • #101: Electoral College Dropouts edition
  • #100: Centennial of Silliness edition
  • #99: Dr. Strangehate edition
  • #98: Get Bentghazi edition
  • #97: SNAPping Your Fingers at the Poor edition
  • #96: Treat or Treat, Kiss My Ass edition
  • #95: Monumental Stupidity double-sized edition
  • #94: House of 'Tards edition
  • #93: You Da Bomb! edition.
  • #92: Akin to a Fool edition.
  • #91: Aurora Moronealis edition.
  • #90: Keep Your Gubmint Hands Off My High Pre'mums and Deductibles! edition.
  • #89: Occupy the Catbird Seat/Thanksgiving edition.
  • #88: Heil Hitler edition.
  • #87: Let Sleeping Elephants Lie edition.
  • #86: the Maniacs edition.
  • #85: The Top 50 Assclowns of 2010 edition.
  • #(19)84: Midterm Madness edition.
  • #83: Spill, Baby, Spill! edition.
  • #82: Leave Corporations Alone, They’re People! edition.
  • #81: Hatin' on Haiti edition.
  • #80: Don't Get Your Panties in a Twist edition.
  • #79: Top 50 Assclowns of 2009 edition.
  • #78: Nattering Nabobs of Negativism edition.
  • #77: ...And Justice For Once edition.
  • #76: Reading Tea Leaves/Labor Day edition.
  • #75: Diamond Jubilee/Inaugural Edition
  • #74: Dropping the Crystal Ball Edition
  • #73: The Twelve Assclowns of Christmas Edition
  • #72: Trick or Treat Election Day Edition
  • #71: Grand Theft Autocrats Edition
  • #70: Soulless Corporations and the Politicians Who Love Them Edition
  • Top 10 Things Donald Trump Said to President Obama
  • Paul Ryan's Top Ten Conditions on Running for the Speakership
  • Top 10 Reasons Why Mitt Romney Won't Run for President in 2016
  • Top 10 Results of the NYPD's Work Slowdown
  • Top 10 Secret Service Security Breaches
  • Top 10 LA Radio Shows That Are Rated Higher Than Rush Limbaugh's
  • Top 10 Reasons Operation American Spring Went Flat
  • Top Ten Facts of the MH370 Air Disaster
  • Top 10 Tips for GOP Congressmen Running Against Women
  • Top 10 Signs Walmart's Mistreating its Workers
  • Top 10 Diversions John McCain Found During Syria Hearing
  • Top 10 George Zimmerman Excuses for Speeding.
  • Top 10 Reasons Paula Deen Got Fired by the Food Network
  • Top Ten Ways Pope Francis is Deviating From Convention
  • Top 10 Reasons For the Pope's Resignation
  • Top 10 Emails Hacked From the Bush Family's Email Accounts
  • Top 10 Lies Told by Mitt Romney at the 2nd Debate.
  • Top 10 Examples of How Hard the Campaign Trail is on Ann D. Romney.
  • Top 10 Ways to Tell The Boston Red Sox Are Finished.
  • Top 10 Things Mitt May be Hiding in His Tax Returns.
  • Top 10 Events at the Romney Olympics.
  • Mitt Romney's Top 10 Wild & Crazy Moments.
  • Top Ten Reasons Why Dick Cheney Got a Heart Transplant.
  • Top 10 Facts About Tonight's New England/Denver Game.
  • My Top 10 Resolutions.
  • Top 10 Rejected Slogans of the Romney Campaign.
  • Top 10 Reasons Herman Cain Suspended His Campaign.
  • Top 10 Trending Topics on Twitter During #OWS Eviction.
  • Top 10 Herman Cain Pickup Lines.
  • Top 10 Changes Since Anthony Weiner Decided to Resign.
  • Top 10 Inaccuracies re bin Laden's Death.
  • Top 10 Ways to Prevent a TSA Patdown.
  • Top Ten Things Not to Say When You're Pulled Over.
  • Top 10 Reasons Why Donald Trump Bowed Out of the Presidential Race.
  • Top 10 Ways Evangelicals Will Prepare for the Rapture II.
  • Top 10 Revelations in Today's Parliament Inquiry into News Corp.
  • Top 10 Reasons Why There Was No Vote on the Debt Ceiling Last Night.
  • Top 10 Revelations in Dick Cheney's Upcoming Memoir.
  • Top Ten Ways Americans Will Observe the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.
  • Top Ten Advances in Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia.
  • Top Ten Inaccuracies in Bill O'Reilly's Book About Lincoln.
  • Top Ten Suggestions From the Cat Food Commission.
  • Top Ten Worst Moments in George W. Bush's Presidency.
  • Top Ten Facts in George W. Bush's Memoir.
  • Top Ten Reasons Terry Jones Postponed His Koran Burning
  • Top 10 Causes for Dick Cheney's Congestive Heart Failure
  • Top Ten Ways That Jan Brewer Will Celebrate Cinco de Mayo
  • Top Ten Demands in Sarah Palin's Contract
  • Top Ten Whoppers in Karl Rove's New Book
  • Top 10 Items Left Behind in Rush Limbaugh's Apartment
  • Top Ten Things Barack Obama said to Rush Limbaugh in the Hospital
  • Top Ten Bizarre Promos Offered by the New Jersey Nets
  • Top 10 Bush Executive Orders Labor Wants President Obama to Repeal
  • George W. Bush's Top Ten Lesser Achievements
  • Empire Of The Senseless.
  • Conservative Values for an Unsaved World.
  • Esquire's Charles Pierce.
  • Brilliant @ Breakfast.
  • The Burning Platform.
  • The Rant.
  • Mock, Paper, Scissors.
  • James Petras.
  • Towle Road.
  • Avedon's Sideshow (the new site).
  • At Largely, Larisa Alexandrovna's place.
  • The Daily Howler.
  • The DCist.
  • Greg Palast.
  • Jon Swift. RIP, Al.
  • God is For Suckers.
  • The Rude Pundit.
  • Driftglass.
  • Newshounds.
  • William Grigg, a great find.
  • Brad Blog.
  • Down With Tyranny!, Howie Klein's blog.
  • Wayne's World. Party time! Excellent!
  • Busted Knuckles, aka Ornery Bastard.
  • Mills River Progressive.
  • Right Wing Watch.
  • Earthbond Misfit.
  • Anosognosia.
  • Echidne of the Snakes.
  • They Gave Us a Republic.
  • The Gawker.
  • Outtake Online, Emmy-winner Charlotte Robinson's site.
  • Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo
  • No More Mr. Nice Blog.
  • Head On Radio Network, Bob Kincaid.
  • Spocko's Brain.
  • Pandagon.
  • Slackivist.
  • WTF Is It Now?
  • No Blood For Hubris.
  • Lydia Cornell, a very smart and accomplished lady.
  • Roger Ailes (the good one.)
  • BlondeSense.
  • The Smirking Chimp.
  • Hammer of the Blogs.
  • Vast Left Wing Conspiracy.
  • Argville.
  • Existentialist Cowboy.
  • The Progressive.
  • The Nation.
  • Mother Jones.
  • Vanity Fair.
  • Citizens For Legitimate Government.
  • News Finder.
  • Indy Media Center.
  • Lexis News.
  • Military Religious Freedom.
  • McClatchy Newspapers.
  • The New Yorker.
  • Bloggingheads TV, political vlogging.
  • Find, the next-best thing to Nexis.
  • Altweeklies, for the news you won't get just anywhere.
  • The Smirking Chimp
  • Don Emmerich's Peace Blog
  • Wikileaks.
  • The Peoples' Voice.
  • CIA World Fact Book.
  • IP address locator.
  • Tom Tomorrow's hilarious strip.
  • Babelfish, an instant, online translator. I love to translate Ann Coulter's site into German.
  • Newsmeat: Find out who's donating to whom.
  • Wikipedia.
  • Uncyclopedia.
  • Icasualties
  • Free Press
  • YouTube
  • The Bone Bridge.
  • Powered by Blogger