“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”
― Anthony Bourdain from “No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach”
Like many of you around the world I was a fan of Anthony Bourdain. A man whose fearless spirit was first spotted in this essay in the New Yorker “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” where the following quote derives.
“love the sheer weirdness of the kitchen life: the dreamers, the crackpots, the refugees, and the sociopaths with whom I continue to work; the ever-present smells of roasting bones, searing fish, and simmering liquids; the noise and clatter, the hiss and spray, the flames, the smoke, and the steam. Admittedly, it’s a life that grinds you down. Most of us who live and operate in the culinary underworld are in some fundamental way dysfunctional. We’ve all chosen to turn our backs on the nine-to-five, on ever having a Friday or Saturday night off, on ever having a normal relationship with a non-cook.”
I followed this read by gobbling up his book Kitchen Confidential which led us further into a fascinating and often troubled world inside a professional kitchen. He was unapologetically honest, incredibly detailed and often crass; earning him respect as his career grew in his 40’s and later turned into a fascinating travel documentary series “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown” exploring parts of the world and sharing stories, often ignored. In addition to that he was never shy to provide his opinion on current events, as exemplified as his recent support for the #METOO movement. He felt like a friend, a confident, someone you’d want to share a beer and a conversation. As The New York Times so poignantly states “he shaped the way we see food,” his unique way of storytelling was often in the back of an alley over a steaming bowl of noodles, a short window into his insatiable curiosity.
I’ll never forget when I got an email a few month’s ago from his production team that they were headed to Florence and could I help with a bit of creative consulting for the show? Honestly I was more honored that I’ve been in a long time that his team thought anything I had to say was worthy of Mr. Bourdain’s attention. In fact, less than 10 days ago we met Tony, in the dining room of a simple, family-run trattoria in the heart of San Frediano. And then the news of his death came, a ton of bricks in one moment in the form of a pop-up notification on my cell phone. “Breaking: Anthony Bourdain Found Dead.” As I struggled to read the complete headline before it disappeared like the many other notifications our smart devices harass us with on the daily, I couldn’t believe it. This is someone who seemed so comfortable with his life and served as such an inspiration to people all over the world.
It had me thinking, it had me thinking a lot. The first thought was how we hold our idols to such impossible symbols of perfection. The thought that they can have feelings, torments, medical issues, mental issues is often ignored. Instead we always want more, more of them to serve as inspirations of what we would like to be — or hope to be. Can you imagine how much pressure that can do to a person?
What we don’t know is that we know nothing.
Already as a blogger, writer, person in Florence I feel like I am meant to constantly be sharing how cool my next new project is going to be and if I have nothing going on I fear disappointing the person who posed the question. Why? That’s so incredibly stupid but it’s true. In this fast-paced world it seems like you need to be ahead of the game to be part of it. We must challenge ourselves, me included, to stop trying to make others happy and focus on the day to day. Less inspirational quotes and more “hey, how are you really?”
It’s worth remembering that we don’t know the inner workings of anyone’s life other than our own.
We rush in our busy lives and we make plans and dreams and hopes and escapes without always acknowledging the present and really digging beneath the surface. I’ve been there and done that.
While we might never know why someone who seemed so unaffected by the world’s bullshit would take his own life, what it can do is serve as a reminder of what little we can do in our daily lives.
We can be better humans and reach out more to people we love.
Often people take time to open up so it’s tantamount to make them feel comfortable and actually try to listen instead of waiting for your turn to talk. Also, we (especially those who work online) can stop trying to be so fucking perfect and just be our authentically flawed selves. Like Tony was. We can share our (real) problems and be less scared that people will judge us for them. Being vulnerable and showing compassion is grossly underrated.
As Tony’s tragic death reminds us, life is not about tomorrow, it is about today.
if you or someone you know needs help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can always reach out to me in the comment section of my blog if you’re here in Florence and just need a friendly person to listen, I can’t do much but I can do that.
Se sentite di aver bisogno, o se pensate che un vostro amico o caro possa trarne beneficio, potete chiamare il Numero Verde 800180950 attivo dal Lunedì al Venerdì dalle 8.00 alle 20.00 e il Sabato dalle 8.00 alle 13.00 http://www.prevenzionedelsuicidio.it/numero-verde