Farewell to a mensch

I come to everything late.

Not meetings or appointments – no, more to things that most people take for granted. Not sure why that is, but it is, which is why I only stumbled across Anthony Bourdain about a decade ago.

It was a second-hand copy of Kitchen Confidential looking up at me from the table in a charity book store. The book fitted snugly into my bag, so I read it on the train – except I didn’t stop until I’d read it twice. Then I handed the book to anyone who hadn’t read it, and afterwards I read it for the third time. Funny, brutal, irreverent, useful, some self-deprecation laced with a dose of aggrandisement, a sense of curiosity and fabulous characterisation brought me back again and again.

Then a friend showed me some episodes of No Reservations and I was more than sold. Bourdain was smart and funny on screen, even when he was cutting he could be kind – here was a man with his own mind. Mostly, I knew that if I ended up stuck in an elevator or an awkward queue with him, we’d have something to talk about because he was that rare thing: a mensch.

I watched him grow older as I grew older, his life change like all our lives can change and I looked forward to seeing his work. Even with Weinsteingate: being thrust into the spotlight, he acquitted himself as well as anyone could in such a weird situation and still he planned and filmed for another season.

And then it was over.

I don’t know and I don’t presume to know why, only that it must have taken something truly overwhelming for him to make that decision. What I do understand is that overwhelming moment. I’ve come close enough to recognise when that moment is just maybe five moments away. So far, each time, I’ve been able to change course fast enough to see the overwhelming moment receding in my rear-view mirror, but it’s easy to realise that luck doesn’t always hold out.

I wish I could talk to him about an ironic observation that hit me while writing this (only because he’d say something that would make me think and make me laugh): it’s seldom the tyrants, the bullies, the judgemental or self-satisfied misery-makers that decide to end it for themselves. You should understand that I don’t want anyone to commit suicide, but why is the tally so high amongst the warm, human, funny thinkers? Sure, you can balance Bourdain and Williams against Hitler except, the gunshot in the bunker was an escape plan, not suicide. But that’s a conversation for another time.

All I’m saying here (selfishly) is: I wish I’d found him sooner and that we could have had him longer. I’m glad he was in the world and I’m sad that he’s gone.

The day it happened:  https://www.news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity-life/the-troubling-signs-leading-up-to-anthony-bourdains-suicide/news-story/214b2b5b7aa4aa68585c8a82e11d20cc


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