The shock and loss to the culinary world is substantial — but to the world at large — the death of Anthony Bourdain is painful because it’s one less human reminding us of what it used to be like to socialize without the crippling tools of disconnect.
As a New Yorker — it was impossible not to be familiar with world-renowned chefs — and the restaurants that demanded a yearly pilgrimage to energize sophisticated palettes. I don’t remember the first time I knew Bourdain existed — but I’m thankful we were re-introduced via Netflix last summer — when I was knee deep in an editorial gig that allowed me to work from home.
That was basically the only thing about those nightmarish months that kept me sane — and I was motivated to add Parts Unknown to my care package.
I had run through the seasons of Law & Order: SVU — Lost and The Office — and needed something deliciously mellow. But — I wasn’t so sure the handsomely scruffy dude with the air of privilege — and a voice that sounded uniquely identifiable — was going to be satisfying enough to transport me from the hours of unpleasantly tedious labor.
I certainly didn’t want to be irritated by his condescending nature — especially during jaunts to the areas of the globe where the natives relentlessly attract systemic snobbery from civilized visitors. However — I was open to the treatment of being slightly bored since my workload had increased substantially after a co-worker abruptly bailed.
It took only a couple of weeks for me to be recognized as a veteran world-traveller — scoping countries I had always been curious about — with the astute compass of a journeyman who generously led the way.
He was no ordinary globetrotter which was somewhat of a surprise.
He was always hungry — but not just for food. His raging appetite required platters of knowledge about the environment he was embodying — and how the locals maximized the benefits of a daily regimen to build blocks of existence — that almost always centered around ingredients for consumption.
He demonstrated his lust for enlightenment through engagement.
An art form that is almost non-existent was perfected by a man who despite his vast exposure and worldly countenance — managed to humbly entertain the possibility of being treated to something new by anyone who would graciously unlock a new discovery.
I enjoyed the trips that connected history to the present — and gave the hosts freedom to express frustrations about government — and pleasure in how farm lands were still peaking despite all that poverty. The scene of cold beers providing comfort after dips into spicy bowls of frothy fare — as the conversation would detour to unexpected confessions about sexual escapades and then back to illegal transactions.
There was seafood and wine on the beach and the homage paid to the simplicity of growing your own shit without orders from the middleman. We communed with members of territories who used the buffet as language of why their challenged existence hadn’t completely suffocated the will to live and prosper.
Each time we moved on to another Part that needed to be exposed — my heart would become full and my mental scrapbook expanded with the teachings of people I’ve never met but feel a kinship with — based on the basics of life and how that methodology can be resurrected when you make eye contact and break bread with the best of them.
Anthony Bourdain was the absolute best.
He was above-average and that range of perfection was potent enough to include my parents.
After leaving L.A. on a jet plane and returning to the East Coast — I was tasked with trying to recover myself while re-engaging with the two people I had spent almost all my adult life running away from.
The first month was interestingly comforting as I reverted back to the child that likes to be playfully scolded and endearingly fussed over. Those habits used to annoy the fuck out of me — but now it feels appropriate to celebrate this phase — due to the lack of time and the cruel reminders of that reality.
Bourdain followed me to my new abode — and on Sunday nights we were transfixed on the telly and the man who was now the big softie — with the attitude that made him both entertaining and appetizingly charismatic.
They loved the opening credits — and how the music matched the personality they assigned to him. They would amusingly watch him attack the food — and joke about how he always managed to galvanize the screen with his larger-than-life disposition — that would literally sweep you away long enough to miss him until next time.
He was our dessert because it was a sweet way for us to spend time together — engaging in ways that are almost extinct — even in our household.
The virus of amplified gadgets and the apps that make it impossible to keep your eyes focused on flesh and blood has infected the instincts that made my childhood magically fulfilling — and now my present has short circuited from the strain of malfunction.
Anthony Bourdain died as a human being who loved humans enough to let them affect those tendencies.
My parents are still processing the news and as Nigerians with religious responsibilities — they can only sadly conclude that the man who gave them so much joy — wasn’t a born again Christian — and that defect killed him.
As for me — I’m in awe of the strength in being vulnerable and characterizing yourself as a student of humanity. I see the person who was able to relate to shady businessmen as well as spirited activists who fed him with doses of their agenda — wrapped up in bloated burritos.
His absence is now being dissected by the media — and of course the passing days reveal the worst in us — as we observe the published images that capture his final moments — as if this will crack the mystery of his demise.
These deliverables only make me miss him even more as I remain in this world that is populated with bot-like templates — that look like me until they speak or you mistakenly bump into the hardened shell — that feels cold and mechanical.
There’s so much being written about Anthony Bourdain and a lot of it is inspiring and loving — but I don’t have to read much to know why his passing is jolting every corner of this earth and beyond.
We liked him because he was human.
He was the adventurer with a beating heart — and the human touch who respected cultures and refrained from depositing mockery or feigning boredom. He made it seem so easy to be human — and for a minute there I really thought I could replicate his rulebook.
I’m still trying and hopefully I won’t stop until I feel the blood flowing through my veins after I reach out and touch somebody.
That’s the sensation he leaves us with — and may it feel so damn good that we won’t stop.