At 4:40AM my phone woke me with a text from a good friend. At first, I thought, maybe he is traveling, or, maybe he is drunk. Anything seemed more likely than what it actually was. A text that read: “Dude Bourdain. So Sad. I know you were a fan too.”
I immediately went on CNN to see if it was true. And it was. So I read. I watched clips. And then I cried. A lot. And for a while I couldn’t stop. Alone in my bed at 4:40 in the morning with heavy streams of tears coming down my cheeks, and deep inhalations of air as I tried to catch my breath as my mind crawled back in time, reliving a picture show of the memories Bourdain has given me and inspired me to create. I had to stop but I couldn’t. I wanted to sleep but couldn’t. I wanted to hear it was a joke, but couldn’t. So, I watched the sun come up from my bedroom window, I picked up my lap top, and I am doing the one thing that has always been there for me, and helped me through every tough time in my life… I am going to write.
Even now I have to take breaks to catch my sniffling breath, or rearrange the downward frown from my mouth as it bends into the shape of a horse shoe before a quick pool of tears overflows from my eyes. It won’t stop. I’ve always been emotional, but c’mon, this was Bourdain, this was my guy, this man who I never met yet changed my life completely. He was my inspiration, my leader, and in some way he seemed like my friend. He just didn’t know it, and now he won’t. And I will never get to say thank you.
When I was 7 years old I went to Jamaica. I learned there is another world outside my suburban home. When I was 21 I lived in Italy. I learned that food could change your world, and you could fall in love with a place. When I was 23 I traveled for 10 days in Israel followed by a 3 month backing trip through Southeast Asia. I learned that there are places in the world no photo will ever do justice for, and that once again, you could fall in love not only with a place, but with a stranger you begin to travel with. When I was 27 I went by myself to Peru, climbed Machu Picchu, learned that the world is far more beautiful than I could have ever imagined…
Then, I met a girl who asked me one simple question and the answer changed my life forever.
As we sat there on a little cramped balcony overlooking the town of Cusco, Peru, two cold beers in our hands, and two warms shots on the small table, she looked at me and asked, “What is your dream job?” My response, which came suddenly and without hesitation, “To be like Anthony Bourdain.”
And that was it. The beginning of a dramatic life change.
I came back home, applied to work for his company who unfortunately weren’t hiring, so I decided in Bourdain essence, to say fuck it, I’ll do it myself. And thus began a journey of a show called Locals Only. We did two full length episodes, some bite sized segments, some write ups and recipe videos and we got a good little run out of it. I tried so hard to get to the next step, I really did.
I even quit my desk job at Mandeville Films/Disney Studios to pursue this food and travel dream. But not before I did a road trip by myself through Costa Rica for a few weeks. And then after I quit, I went on a three month road trip (where I was once again solo for most of it) from Los Angeles through the Pacific Northwest, up to Canada and then across Canada, and down through Mountain states camping in national parks along the way. I drove over 4,000 miles, hit over 12 National Parks, and saw 7 states and 2 countries. It was one of the happiest times in my life.
You see, I had this zest for life that I owed to Anthony Bourdain. Because he inspired me to do more than what was thought normal, to take risks, to try new things, and to truly live a life that fills your heart with memories, and leaves pieces of your soul along the worn down road. At the core of this whole thing was one simple idea he expressed… to simply see the world and learn from it. He did that through travel, but he also expressed the notion that when you sit down to eat a table, it doesn’t matter what language you speak, you can share a meal and get to know someone. Food is the universal language and thus we can combine food and travel so easily to create something beautiful. And that is exactly what he did. And it was beautiful.
He taught me my body is a theme park, not a museum. He taught me that we are here for a good time, not a long time. To get off my couch, to move, to explore, to love, to experience life and take it on a fucking journey. And I am. And I will be.
But he won’t. Not anymore. His journey ended today, leaving behind a daughter, and a job that so many people would do anything for. And thus here I am writing my emotions into a blank page at 5:30 in the morning trying to cope with the news that one of my biggest heroes is dead.
I’ll never get to say it to you in person Mr. Bourdain, so I will say it here now. Thank you. Thank you for being you. For being different. For encouraging people to have a zest for life that advocated experience, culture, change, walking in other people’s shoes. You not only made me a better person, you made the world a better place. You made strangers come together who only had one thing in common, you. Because everywhere we would go we’d see your books in the hands of travelers sitting down to breakfast, or overhear quotes from you being passed along in buses, read them written in travel blogs, or scrawled across hostel bed rooms and Lonely Planet guide books. You gave rise to a generation of foodies and travel mongers, you gave us a captain to look up to, a tangible dream to go after. You made it okay to get drunk, to cuss, to get tattoos, and ultimately to have some fucking fun in life. You taught us to look outside the windows and stare deeply into the stars.
You changed my life Mr. Bourdain. I wish we could have changed yours.
To anyone who reads this: We’ve long been seeing a trend in suicide and while so many others have simple scrolled through social media without too much of my attention or emotion, this one truly hurt. It broke my heart, and my heart hasn’t been broken in a long time. Editing this now at 7:51AM and it still is hitting me in waves that fill my eyes in tears. Please, if you are ever down, or feel like you’re in a darkened place where the light will never shine… call me. I don’t give a fuck if I have not spoken to you in years. In high school, I was on the poetry club, it doesn’t get much softer than that. Talk about friend zone, I was known as a the “talking buddy,” meaning just that, I would have no problem talking in person about the deepest darkest secrets, or getting phone calls at 3 in the morning from a friend going through a tough time… and nothing has changed about me in that regard. Please, don’t make a decision you won’t be able to reverse. Please don’t let other people fall apart in the wake of your exit. There is enough sadness in the word already, please, do not create more, but rather inspire change. Everyone loves a comeback– but there is no coming back from suicide. That is permanent. And as you see – it can break someone’s heart, completely, even if you’ve never met.
Be good. Be Kind.
“As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”
-Anthony Bourdain (June 25, 1956 – June 8, 2018)