I took a social media break last week just before my provincial election (it was bad news enough) but when I came back, I had heard Anthony Bourdain had died.
At first I just kind of shrugged and thought yup, another celebrity suicide. Like the election, I didn't want to hear anything about it or to think about it at all. Generally I'm not affected by celebrity news or deaths, but I think like most foodies I know, Anthony Bourdain meant a lot to us, and I couldn't shake the news.
Bourdain was doing what many of us dream of; travelling the world, eating and talking about it. What set him apart from others, aside from the exotic locales, was his honesty (at least, what seemed like honesty, TV is always about manipulation). He didn't sugar coat his experiences. He went and ate everywhere. Fine hotels and fancy restaurants or back alleys and night markets. Bourdain went where the locales went. My earliest memory of experiencing Anthony was watching him on his show No Reservations on a small motor boat in what I remember being what I think was Vietnam and as they traveled on a river, saw a family eating on their home/boat and joined the family for their meal unexpectedly. The family showed him what an typical meal was like, and he ate what most Westerners would be squeamish to eat, especially when we saw them wash the dishes between meals in the dirty river water. But he didn't balk. He always showed great respect to the people, his hosts, the countries and the food.
What I loved about watching Bourdain, whether it was No Reservations or The Layover or No Limits, was that he was there to learn. He's a trained chef, but he wanted to learn what life (and thus food) was like every location he went to. He listened to the people, then told us the story with his voice and his perspective. He didn't seem to shy from giving his opinion, he didn't avoid complaining about something, but it never came across as whining or trivial. He wasn't a shining optimist, but he seemed to embrace adventure, food and life. And I think that what makes his suicide so hard. I thought he was a fighter, and I don't doubt he did fight, it's just that much sadder that whatever got to him, got him.
Suicide is never easy. In my former career, I dealt on a semi-regular basis with folks who thought about suicide, who attempted suicide, and that were overcoming attempted suicide. I've had friends think or attempt suicide. I've gone through several levels of suicide prevention training. I've had some very hard conversations, and seen people going through very difficult things. I don't know what Anthony Bourdain was going through, but I know whatever it was, it couldn't have been easy. Some people dismiss suicide as the easy way out, but there is nothing easy about it. If you are having trouble, if you are thinking about suicide, please reach out for help. If you are in Canada go to https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/ for a crisis centre or call 911.
I feel sad at the loss of Anthony Bourdain. I can't shake the thought that we won't get to see more of him, of his travels, of his experiences. He did a great service for those of us who love travel and food, and he will be missed. So before I sign off here, I present this clip of Bourdain eating spicy wings with Anderson Cooper - I love it because a) they are eating wings b) how he seems to thirst for the spicy wings and the endorphin rush c) Anderson Cooper's reaction to the heat.
Rest In Peace Tony