No Reservations

Ever since hearing the news that Anthony Bourdain was dead from suicide, I’ve been in shock in a way that I haven’t been for any other dead celebrity over the last few years. I’ve been trying to figure out why, but I can’t quite put my finger on it, and every time I try to think about it, I feel that shock once more. I’m downright stunned; Bourdain is gone, and that is a huge loss.

I haven’t read his books, although they’re all on my To Read list; I haven’t watched all episodes of his TV shows, although I have them all on my streaming queues, did catch most of No Reservations on the Travel Channel, and always enjoyed his appearances in Top Chef; I didn’t follow him on social media, although anything that came across my feed written by him would get at least a quick read-through. What I’m saying is that I like Anthony Bourdain, but I’m not necessarily a fan boy, and yet I feel a very acute sense of loss.

Bourdain was a fantastic storyteller, whether in writing or on film, and his voice was unique, a mixture of brutal honesty, kind concern, and adventurous wonder, sprinkled with a New-York-streets down-to-earth-ness that made the end result seem like a conversation with a friend you didn’t even know you had. His was a storytelling voice I admired, and one I aspire to have one day. It sucks that that voice is now gone, and that I didn’t value it enough, experience it enough while he was around. But then again, who thought that we’d wake up to find that Tony Bourdain was dead?

I keep thinking of the fierce love he had for his daughter, which came across so strongly in his writing, and my heart breaks for the father and the daughter torn by this tragedy. I admit I struggle to understand how a parent gets to the point where to not be there for a child is the right choice, and I’m thankful for Medium’s Sara Bernincasa’s words on this subject and the insight they offer.

“It is also incorrect to regard the suicide of a parent as the act of abandoning a child. This assumes the parent believes his presence on this earth is a boon to the child, a benefit rather than a burden. This assumes the parent is thinking logically and clearly and calmly. This assumes the parent is not also a person who has to live every moment inside the torture chamber of an unquiet mind. This assumes the parent is just that role and not many other things, too.”

In the act of writing this I was able to put my finger on why Bourdain’s death has affected me: he was famous, yes, but he was human to a fault, and he never let us and himself forget it. NPR’s Linda Holmes best summed up Bourdain by saying,

“[I] will miss [his] deceptively optimistic outlook, among other things. Bourdain may have had a snarl, a cutting tongue and closets full of demons he was often fairly open about. But he treated the world as if he had not given up on it. He treated it as if, at any moment, it might open itself wider, reveal a crack into which he hadn’t ever slipped, with pen and paper, with a flashlight and a fork. And he might be able to help other people understand what was inside.”

I’m just this one guy in Orlando, Florida, not even Bourdain’s biggest fan, but I’m gonna miss him, as a person who brought positivity into the world, as an explorer who invited us along to see the diversity of our planet and its people, and as one hell of a writer and storyteller. Bourdain’s first show was named as a play on words on the whole travel aspect of reservations, but it also referenced the way he approached travel, and really life in general: no reservations. We should all strive to live that way as well.

I hope he found the peace he wanted.

Photo: Anthony Bourdain, courtesy of the Boston Academy of Music, CC BY-ND 2.0.