A week has passed.
This is more of a personal post, so forgive the rambling.
I decided to take the website off of “mourning mode.” It’s no longer black and gray. It’s not that I’m done mourning–well, I am. At this point in my life, I have enough experience with this stuff that I don’t really mourn. I readjust. It’s still freaky that I was finishing the new Robin Williams biography when this happened. I looked to my feelings on his suicide to help me navigate my feelings on this one.
Anthony Bourdain was much closer, though. He’s someone who actually changed my fucking life. His work influenced me to leave my comfortable life and live overseas, become a food writer, and to do things Old Joe would not have had the courage to do. The way he lived was an inspiration.
I guess that’s why this has affected so many people. His suicide sent the message, “Yeah, you know everything I told you about life and how to really live it? That was all bullshit.”
It felt like a betrayal to everything he espoused. Those were my first feelings. Actually, my first feelings were towards his daughter, Asia, and Ottavia. I never met any of them. When I worked with Tony in Korea, I gave him a Korean namestamp with the word “Bourdain” in Korean and asked him to give it to his daughter. I don’t know if he ever did that. In my weird mind, I imagined a connection between his daughter and mine, even though they don’t have anything in common other than coming from international parents.
I’m also thinking of the ZPZ crew. Nari. Todd. Tom. Zack. And of course, Eric Ripert. I’m Facebook friends with former ZPZ crew members, and we reconnected over this.
I know those Five Stages of Grief™ have been debunked. Nonetheless, they were in my mind. I didn’t really go through a denial phase. I got the news from a ton of people messaging me at once while I was eating some pizza with the actress who plays Minji the Ghost in our Dark Side of Seoul Tour. We were meeting to discuss how to utilize her more–she wants to play a larger role in the business. I stopped and went, “Ah, shit.”
In my mind, I was thinking, “Figures.”
I was annoyed about having to go through another mental realignment about someone I admired being gone, and in such a dramatic way. I know that’s self-centered. I just burst out saying, “Dammit, Tony–you moron. Geez, man.”
I’m not seriously speculating. One of the oldest online Bourdain fan clubs–so old it’s on Yahoo! Groups and was on e-Groups before then–wondered what was going through his mind at the time. I think back of an early Cook’s Tour episode, where he’s getting out of the hotel to snatch some morning soup in Vietnam. There’s a single dumpling in it. He points out that most people would save that for last, which he doesn’t do. Enjoy it now. Do it now. Go with the impulse. I sort of think this was an impulse. I read he was going through some darkness and fatigue from a heavy shooting schedule.
In my mind, it was like someone having a good time at a party, getting a little tired, getting up and stretching while surveying his surroundings and saying, “That was fun. I’m done now.”
This is my way of coping.
Even though I received a lot of messages, I didn’t have someone to talk to in person about my feelings. EJ, though she’s good to talk to about many things–she never really got my obsession with Bourdain. She doesn’t have, shall we say, a good bedside manner. I came home after a tour late last Saturday night in a visibly dark demeanor. EJ asked, “Are you still sad?”
“It’s only been one day, I haven’t even started yet.”
“Well, you know, you’re not a teenager.”
I live on the outskirts of Seoul, so most of my friends aren’t convenient to meet with. I was thankful that my old blogger buddy, Roboseyo, journeyed out on Tuesday night. It was a great talk.
Bourdain’s circle was one I wanted so badly to be a part of. Now I’m feeling even more severely as an outsider.
But my thoughts on moving forward. Honestly, I already was. After I worked on the show and got to meet the one person I wanted to meet my entire life, it was anticlimactic. I was done. I never watched another episode of the show. It wasn’t him. He was great. The bubble had just burst on my hero worship. I knew I would never become friends with him. I was just some annoying fan who fucked up the Korea shoot. I feel guilty that I got to meet him while my brother never did. I’m also envious of those who were closer. A few of my friends were. One of the first people who contacted me to talk was someone who knew him before he got famous. By the time I was around, he was done with having new friends.
He was demystified. I don’t know how he was in the earlier days. Actually, I do know. One of his former producers said that he was very involved with every aspect. On the Korea shoot, he was isolated when not on camera. He stayed in the resort and only ventured out for actual shoots. In between, he was checking his phone. At the time, Ottavia was competing in a martial arts tournament, and he was getting updates. He had just injured himself before coming, so I guess he wasn’t in the best physical shape. I don’t know. He was polite, and he was damn funny on camera. I wish a lot of the stuff stayed in. But I sensed a barrier. Maybe it’s hindsight coloring this? I’m trying to figure what made me change after 2014. I know that the shoot itself was extremely stressful, and it killed whatever last remaining delusions of grandeur I had. I just couldn’t watch the show again. Even the episode I worked on, I’ve only watched it twice.
To throw in my Star Wars fandom, this is why I liked the Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi. I’ve seen so many of my heroes fall. I’ve seen them get jaded and bitter. I’ve watched them fall from scandal. The people who got the Luke in TLJ were people who had experienced life. They didn’t have protected worlds. Heroes aren’t always heroes. Happy endings are just the highs on a rollercoaster. Think of all the people who lived great lives but had shitty ends.
Bourdain is a reminder that our endings will likely not be good. No peaceful gauzy bedside death surrounded by loved ones. It’s going to be violent, undignified, and lonely. It will happen when we aren’t ready. I know I’ll be like a Civilization gamer–“Just one. More. Turn!”
And then, forgotten.
My heroes are gone. As they should be.
I appreciate your insights and am sorry for your loss—for this is your loss, in a sense. I enjoyed Bourdain’s “No Reservations,” or at least the handful of episodes I saw. I never watched “Parts Unknown.” I’ve got a couple of this books on my Amazon wish list, including the “Get Jiro” graphic novels. Bourdain was a remarkable man, and it’s too bad he’s gone.