I’m still attempting to process Anthony Bourdain’s passing. We hear news about celebrity deaths all the time and I’m not saying these are reports we should be numb to it but the initial reaction is still of disbelief. We’re spectators to the glorious lives these people live as they’re flashed on every media outlet like an ongoing slideshow but behind all that we’re never truly informed on the intricate mechanics of what we’re seeing.
I’ve written before how much I idolized Bourdain. 6 years later that admiration remains which is why his unexpected death made me reflect on what a lot of his work revolved around: everybody has a story based off their life experiences of which we may know nothing about. We can only decode so much from the outside.
We’ve all familiar with the saying that “it’s lonely at the top”. I assume while you’re up there, the desire to reveal the best image of yourself, to stay liked, to be a role model puts an insane amount of pressure on anyone. A feeling which very often goes unspoken by the person living it. Who knows if this was the case for Bourdain; he certainly didn’t seem the type to have given this celebrity quandary much thought but we’ll never know.
I’ve read all his books, I’ve seen every single one of his show episodes, I’ve followed every project he was involved in, including the very ambitious Bourdain Market which was set to open in New York but unfortunately the entire project was axed. I’ve trolled Bourdain’s work because I cared so much in listening to his perspective on life matters that extended far beyond what he was known for. While food might have been the entry way in which he gained access into people’s lives, it was more about than that. It’s that “more” element which enabled him to shine. You can’t fake being interested in people. Either you are or you’re not and that’s what he was all about.
As Helen Brosner said in a recent New Yorker piece, “Bourdain felt like your brother, your rad uncle, your impossibly cool dad—your realest, smartest friend, who wandered outside after beers at the local one night and ended up in front of some TV cameras and decided to stay there.” This is what made him so relatable. He was highly thought of and yet he never seemed as thought he thought highly of himself.
What’s not to love about a guy like that! Through his expression you can read the pain he had endured to reach the well-deserved celebrity position he was at. He lived and suffered but inspired as well. Without suffering and the occasional doubts, the mind will have a tendency to rest on cliches and stay there and there was nothing Bourdain despised more than that.
We may never have the opportunity to travel as much as his sough-after career allowed him to but I’ve learned traveling doesn’t always have to entail far long journeys. I’m fortunate to live in one of the most diverse cities in the world and not a day goes by where I don’t encounter people with different customs, different ideologies, different life perspectives and it’s those differences that Bourdain taught us to embrace.
I’m extreme sadden by Bourdain’s passing just like any other fan. He’s the reason I enrolled my son in Jiu Jitsu. He’s the reason I bought my first ever pair of Clarks Suede Desert Boots, he’s the reason I became a voracious reader, he’s the reason I love to write about what I shoot because I was inspired the way in which he narrates his travels experiences in his shows.
To do what he did required a lot of toughness but also a constant connection to reality. To me there was no one else more real than him and that’s how I’ll always remember. Speak your mind, stand by it and stay curious.
If you admire him as much as we all do, I think you'd appreciate this beautiful Life in Pictures CNN composed of his life's work.