Friday, June 8, 2018
The first time I heard about Anthony Bourdain was around the year 2000. I was working for a prominent independent bookstore in San Francisco, The Booksmith, when we got a few copies of his book Kitchen Confidential in. At the time I was so heavily immersed in the local music scene as a freelance journalist and sometimes DJ that a funky book about some cook spilling the beans about what really goes on in kitchens across New York didn't even cross my mind as a possible read. Even though I was (and still am) an adventurous and curious eater and worked in bars and restaurants here and there for most of my money earning career. It just didn't interest me at the time. So I shrugged it off, sold it to a few customers and that was that.
Years later, after moving to Tucson, I landed a job with a non-profit children's dinosaur museum as manager but that came to an end two years in due to horrible mismanagement of funds by the owners. Having no job lined up I found myself suddenly unemployed. My wife had been working at Old Chicago on Campbell Ave for years and assured me that she could get me a job there. Before I knew it I was commanding the busy pizza line, working the front line and even acting as kitchen supervisor. This introduced me to a whole new world, the culinary underbelly, one of which I wanted to dig deeper.
That's when I remembered Kitchen Confidential. So I purchased a used copy for a few bucks and dove right in.
It didn't take long for me to slap my head and proclaim "Why didn't I read this earlier?" It was captivating. If this Bourdain guy can cook like he writes then he must be some kind of creative mastermind. Immediately after I picked up and read A Cooks Tour, The Nasty Bits and Medium Raw, all of which were highly influential to me because they were amazingly written. I even took a crack at A Bone in the Throat, which was some kind of murder mystery...thing, but it didn't hold up to his non-fiction so I donated that to my local library. It was around this time that I formed the early inception of the Tucson Homeskillet which got me a few articles with Tucson Foodie which inspired me to revamp the blog and go super balls out as a food writer which lead me to being the Chow writer for the Tucson Weekly.
Cheers Anthony Bourdain. You helped me out in so many ways. Don't know how I'll do it, but I owe you. Big.
Not to mention I watched pretty much every episode of his shows such as Parts Unknown, The Layover and of course No Reservations, sometimes marathoning them when I had bouts with my own depression. Sitting there sinking into the chair, unable to eat or think correct, it was great to see this snarky New York punk, who drank and (in the first few seasons) smoke, curse and generally take absolutely no crap from anyone, while eating the most amazing cuisine across the globe, always seemed to make me feel a bit more human, when I actually felt like I was drowning. The guy had the best frikkin' job in the world.
And now he's gone.
It sucks that his best friend Eric Ripert had to find him dead in a room in Paris. I can't imagine your pal for so many years just laying there motionless at the fairly youngish age of 61 with you unable to do anything but call the proper authorities and have him picked up. Ugh.
Depression is a mean ass dirty bitch. Now, for me, I have a chemical imbalance due to extremely high levels of estrogen, so meds and solitude help when the cogs aren't meeting the spokes of the brain, if you will. I don't know real depression, the kind of unending sinkhole you think you'll never claw out of so the only solution is to just stop. But, in a weird way, I understand it. It makes we wonder though if it was just the heavy cocktail of pills that we are prescribed there days for our ailments that did him in. I don't know. He didn't say. I mean, I never met the man.
Now I never will.
One of the best memories of Bourdain was listening to the audiobook version of Kitchen Confidential while on a roadtrip with my wife She-Ra. He narrated it, of course, but with his voice it made that past life of his, knee deep in the blood, fire and gristle of kitchens, while wrestling with a huge heroin addiction, seem and feel more real and relevant. Oddly enough we lost that audiobook because we wanted to listen to it again on another roadtrip.
And Anthony Bourdain knew about trips; boat, plane, tuk-tuk, elephant, limos, cabs, subways, snowmobile, train, horse, camel and I think he even was even taken up a mountain by a Sherpa when his knee gave out. Wow.
To say the least, what a great trip it was with him.
Thank you Anthony Bourdain. You'll be hanging out with Iggy Pop again sometime, but...let's not hope anytime soon. We need some raw punk energy down here for a little while longer.
But I hope the food is good. Wherever you are...