My arms feel tingly. My vision’s weird. I don’t remember how much water I’ve had today and there’s a dull ache in my temples.
I’m feeling a bit lightheaded. Maybe you should drive.
My phone woke me up at 6am. I jumped outta bed, walked to the phone, and when I saw the message was from a friend sent to an ongoing group text, I said, out loud, “Ya can’t message me now, man.” An hour later, when I was standing in my bathroom getting ready to put my face on, I finally looked at the text. There was a link to some real bad news. Anthony Bourdain. Gone. Cause of death: suicide.
The intensity of my reaction startled me. My knees didn’t go weak, but my ankles did. I leaned over my bathroom counter and planted my elbows against the tile to steady myself. It wasn’t true. He wouldn’t do that. How do they know?
I thought about Asia Argento and how Goddamn in love she and Anthony looked. I thought about Marc Maron and imagined him frantically re-uploading their WTF interview. I thought about tuna tartare. I thought about eating iguanas. I thought about shooting heroin. I thought about Iggy Pop, who once looked into a crowd of people at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles and reminded all of us that, “junkies are people, too.”
By the time I got to work and sat down at my desk, I was angry. I was so, so angry at Goddamn Anthony Bourdain. He didn’t owe me anything, but he owed a lot to at least a handful of people. Still, why should I care? It’s not really my business. I didn’t really know him. I’m not really an expert on anything. What the Hell do I know about sadness?
And then, I cried.
I know enough about sadness to know that if you get to a certain point, you think fucked up things. Something might cross your mind that scares the Hell outta you, but if you’re lucky, it’ll scare you straight. “Why am I thinking this way? That’s not me. I need some sun.” It happens. And while it’s maybe not something to bring up on a Wednesday morning to a co-worker you hardly know, it’s also nothing to feel ashamed about. Life is hard. No one knows what’s going on. For fuck’s sake, we’re in space. Name something scarier than that.
For as much of a dork and a jerk and a child as Anthony Bourdain could absolutely be, I loved that dude. Dork. Jerk. Child. I mean all this with Love. I loved dorky Bourdain, even when I kinda couldn’t stand him. I loved hearing him talk about Hunter S. Thompson as if he were just another college kid sneaking his first cigarette. I loved hearing him namedrop all the cool bands he liked. I loved hearing him say “Fuck” one too many times. It was hilarious. And endearing. Sometimes, yeah, it was annoying. But so what? A lot of people I love can display a good mix of those qualities, and hey, I’m sure I can, too.
I think that’s a big part of it. Watching his show was like hanging out with your slightly nerdy, undeniably smart friend who was always down for a good fuckin’ time. I never just watched him: I laughed with him and listened to him and rolled my eyes at him and cursed at him. “I feel like I’m watching the Keith Richards of egg flipping!” “Shut the fuck up, Bourdain.”
Sometimes you hear something terrible like this and you can’t help but feel unsurprised. That might sound fucked up, and look, I’m not saying it isn’t, but do you know what I mean? You’re still in shock, but all the dots connect. The behavior adds up. Not here. Not on the surface. I’m not the only person saying this. I listened to NPR this morning, just like you did. “Shocked.” That’s the word they’re all using. And yes, there’s always more to the story. I know. But this whole thing, though? This whole thing is making me feel creepy. I have the creeps. I’m being reminded that we never have the whole story. Unhelpful. Unfair. Unkind.
This was a person who managed to elevate an art form by taking it down a notch. He got real about food criticism. Seriously, food criticism. How ridiculous, right? Exactly. But all that honesty about hard times in NYC and sweating away in frantic kitchens and kicking drug addiction and struggling with depression didn’t translate into the strength to be honest about just how bad it was.
Or hey, maybe he was honest about it, but not on camera. Or on paper. Maybe that was private. Either way, I lived to see another frustrating, stressful, wonderful day, and Anthony Bourdain did not.
What does it take to be happy? What does it take to silence the bullshit? Clearly not money. Not the adoration of millions. Not travel. Not food. Not love. On camera, he had the kind of life that most of us will only dream of having. Off camera…I guess we’ll never really know.
I’m curious to see what happens next. I’m curious to see who cries “mental health.” This stuff isn’t new, and from the looks of it, it’s on the rise. Why? Why are some people able to come to the edge of the cliff and then wake the fuck up?
In a nutshell, the sad truth is this: I hate to think about that cool motherfucker with the shit-eating grin and know that he was unhappy. It hurts. It hurts a Goddamn lot. His show made the world, of all places, look like paradise. Paradise.
Such a shock. Such a bummer. Such a waste.