Friday morning I woke up to the news that Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide. My heart broke. I truly feel he was an ally to women, people of color, human differences, cultural differences, and all marginalized communities and silenced voices. He was a human with such a curiosity for life, stories, and experiences that it was hard not to feel inspired by him. He seemed to be truly able to listen, live genuinely, and reflect what he heard from others in an honest light. In 2016 I went to Canada because his episode on Montreal left me wanting to be there instantly.
Over the course of the past year, as I have struggled with feelings related to people not facing accountability for abusive behaviors, he was a bright light in a person’s ability to be an ally, to those who come forward and share their experiences. He was able to reflect on his own actions, his own past, and how he could be better. How he was complicit with behaviors he witnessed or heard about when he shouldn’t have been, and he was able to acknowledge that and work towards being a better person, a person who stood by those who came forward with experiences of injustice and abuse. He was a bright light that will be missed in this world.
He inspired so many over the years, he listened, heard, and supported so many people throughout the world. He taught us to be curious, adventurous, to push ourselves out of our comfort zones.
And he apparently loved cats.
So today, I feel inspired to reflect on my own travels, my own experiences and adventures that I have been lucky enough to go on.
Summer 2006: Paraguay and Peru
In 2006 I flew to South American to visit my uncle who was there doing Peace Corps in Paraguay. I flew on Varig airlines, with a short layover in Brazil. The layover turned out to be semi permanent, as the airline went under (during my flight down there??) and I had no flight from Brazil to Paraguay. Essentially, I had to get special permission from the federal police to enter the city for the day since I did not have a visa, and I then spent a day with an 18 year old Brazilian named Ana watching Brazilian soap operas in a hotel until the airport could find me a flight to Paraguay. It was an unexpected day in Brazil, but it was a blast. Once in Paraguay, I spent a week with my uncle and aunt in Concepcion. I got to explore where he had been living the past two years and the community center where he had been volunteering.
After a week in Paraguay, my uncle, aunt, and I flew to Peru for a week and a half trip in which we would be hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. We flew into Lima where we spent the first two nights (and I successfully snuck my first underage drink in the country…), then we spent a few nights in Cusco before leaving to backpack the trail. We stopped at a place that brewed beer and raised guinea pigs (for eating) and played a drinking game, but did not eat any guinea pigs. We then started on the three day hike in the Andes. It was a trip of a lifetime. So much so that I recently was sharing this experience with a resident living in memory care who I know was an avid hiker, and she lit up and could describe in detail her entire trip to Machu Picchu. We hiked, camped, and pooped in holes in the ground in random places throughout the Andes. We saw alpaca hiking the trail on their own, and I was lucky enough to be the only one in the group that didn’t get food poisoning. On the last morning, we rose at 3am and hiked to Machu Picchu to see it at sunrise. So beautiful. Like I said, an experience of a lifetime.
Summer 2007: Spain
I traveled to Spain in 2007 with my high school Spanish class. Looking back, I would love to go back to the country and really delve into it as an adult. It was an amazing experience as a seventeen year old, but there was so much packed into the trip that some of the memories are foggy. I do remember all of the delicious food throughout the trip, the feeling that Europe was doing something better than the United States in terms of culture, speed, and connection, and all of the beautiful history throughout the country. And getting lost in Toledo at night and going in to a random bar to try and speak Spanish well enough to use their phone.
Spring 2012: Swaziland
There was hiking, food, bus rink rebellions, and quiet moments on Joe’s homestead. This is also the first place I watched American Horror Story, which was terrifying as I ran to the outhouse in the middle of the night to pee.
“A place so incongruously and uniquely…seductive that I often fantasize about making my home there. Though I’ve made television all over the world, often in faraway and “exotic” places, it’s the Cleveland episode that is my favorite—and one about which I am most proud.” – Anthony Bourdain .
September 2015 & August 2016: Montreal
I still might run off and live in this gorgeous city someday.
In the end, no words of mine could ever do the importance of Anthony Bourdain’s life, work, and passions justice. But, I can keep on traveling, adventuring, listening, and learning. I can continue to challenge myself to grow and question things… all the things. I can stay curious, and take the time to enjoy food, to slow down and enjoy. I can listen and support people who are experiencing marginalization, and I can stand next to them in solidarity.
Here’s to Anthony Bourdain, thank you for sharing your personal stories for better or for worse, and for sharing the importance of exploration and learning through the sharing of others’ stories, traditions, and experiences. You will be missed.
“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.” -Anthony Bourdain
ON REACTING TO BAD NEWS
It is an incredibly difficult and wrenching thing to come forward, to go public with claims of sexual assault or misconduct — as I have seen up close. Women risk a crushing level of public skepticism, vilification, shaming, and retribution. They have nothing to gain, and everything to lose.
Any admiration I have expressed in the past for Mario Batali and Ken Friedman, whatever I might feel about them, however much I admired and respected them, is, in light of these charges, irrelevant. I will not waste anybody’s time with expressions of shock, surprise, or personal upset, beyond saying that I am ashamed that I was clearly not the kind of person that women friends who knew — and had stories to tell — felt comfortable confiding in.
In these current circumstances, one must pick a side. I stand unhesitatingly and unwaveringly with the women. Not out of virtue, or integrity, or high moral outrage — as much as I’d like to say so — but because late in life, I met one extraordinary woman with a particularly awful story to tell, who introduced me to other extraordinary women with equally awful stories. I am grateful to them for their courage, and inspired by them. That doesn’t make me any more enlightened than any other man who has begun listening and paying attention. It does makes me, I hope, slightly less stupid.
Right now, nothing else matters but women’s stories of what it’s like in the industry I have loved and celebrated for nearly 30 years — and our willingness, as human beings, citizens, men and women alike, to hear them out, fully, and in a way that other women can feel secure enough, and have faith enough that they, too, can tell their stories. We are clearly at a long overdue moment in history where everyone, good hearted or not, will HAVE to look at themselves, the part they played in the past, the things they’ve seen, ignored, accepted as normal, or simply missed — and consider what side of history they want to be on in the future.
To the extent which my work in Kitchen Confidential celebrated or prolonged a culture that allowed the kind of grotesque behaviors we’re hearing about all too frequently is something I think about daily, with real remorse.