I woke up this morning to the horrible news my beloved writer and cultural phenom, Anthony Bourdain, committed suicide. I hoped it was a cruel April Fool’s joke but the not-so-groggy part of my brain reminded me it’s June. I wondered if it was just a bunch of fake news but I was reading the article on CNN. I blinked a few mad tears away and peeled myself out of bed to face the heavy day.
My late stepdad lent me his copy of Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly when I was 20. I didn’t know what to expect. Inside was rebellious and highly intelligent prose set to a comedic staccato I had never experienced before. His mentors and idols in literature and music became mine as I dived into a Beats and punk rock phase thereafter. Later, when the Food Network’s A Cook’s Tour and Travel Channel’s No Reservations aired, I heard his distinct New York accent and outspoken voice for the first time aloud. I’ve been eating and traveling vicariously ever since through his writing, social media and CNN’s award-winning Parts Unknown. I write, in-part, because I was inspired by him.
Bourdain was a real punk (and not just after today) in an aggressive, fast-moving way much like the music. He was loud and insistent about the world, shedding light on un-PC topics we’re not supposed to talk about at the dinner table: politics, genocide, drugs, blood, religion and guts. His very own punky Beat movement fought in the streets of social conformities and adopted ways to experience heightened sensory awareness through different cultures.
“Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom … is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go,” Bourdain is famously quoted.
As we all strive to either consciously (or subconsciously) obtain enlightenment, we struggle internally every single day to figure it out. All of us. My own fight with depression, writing and trying to make my passions become a viable career seem stupid and pointless when tragedies like these strike. Mental illness will always be a weird, mysterious mistress that no one fully understands. Shrouded in a veil of whispers and misconceptions, every person on this planet is affected by the positive and negative aspects of mental health. Even our closest loved ones, valued mentors and recognized icons.
On a pivotal day like today I’m not inspired to work on anything. I don’t want to fight for mental health awareness. I won’t keep anyone in my thoughts and prayers. I want to concentrate on my own journey toward enlightenment (and figure out how to pay more attention) because when there is despair, there is always hope. And where there is darkness, there is always light.
“Travel isn’t always pretty,” wrote Bourdain. “It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you – it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you … Hopefully you leave something good behind.”
RIP, Tony, beneath the glossy surface.