Maybe it should have been obvious, the ever-expanding eye bags, distending and contorting his corrugated, leathery skin. The sleepless, workaholic lifestyle that despite his incredible success seemed to thunder away from the self rather than toward something, as if there was too little solace in the now to stay for very long. Too much fucking pain to pause. The sad smiles that seemed gross embellishments, Kinkade-like attempts to render a maudlin pastel bridge over a treacherous, demon-filled moat.
Knowing his dark past I feared it would be nearly impossible for Anthony to truly turn the corner on his addiction when every show he made depended on him sampling not only the local food, but the wine, beer and booze as well. I found irony in his visits to the shooting galleries in Massachusetts, speaking of his past addictions, as if they were mercifully dead and buried – when nearly every episode of Parts Unknown revealed his glassy eyes, or a hungover brunch, his penchant for excessive indulgence in alcohol always on display.
Of course, all this is a shitload of Monday-morning quarterbacking, so easy to sit on this side of the abyss and make grand pronouncements on someone else’s game. And it ignores just how much I admired the damn guy, trudging unapologetically through his own shit to deliver people from every walk of life and the myriad of foods that defined them into our homes, opening our minds to their daily struggles and simple joys.
And that being said I’d sure like to punch the fucker in the face – well really, I’d like to go back in time and punch the living version of himself anyway. How could you be so fucking selfish, to abandon your 11-year-old daughter over a broken heart I’m guessing. What’re you fucking 14 years old? Fuck! Surely if Anthony Bourdain can’t get through a rough patch despite having what he regularly admitted was the greatest job in the world, how are the rest of us poor schmucks supposed to keep trudging through the bleak hatred.
But then me being mad at Anthony Bourdain is merely a visit to my own 14-year old self, an adolescent response to a death that was decades in the making by his own accord. Maybe I could send a nice letter back in time to John Kennedy Toole and tell him not to kill himself, that genius farce you wrote will win the Pulitzer one day – as if that might keep him around. You’ll be rich and famous, and therefore happy, right?
We get so fucking angry at people we admire offing themselves probably because we’ve toyed with the idea of an easier way out ourselves and let’s be honest if we’re still here we feel justified in saying a big “fuck you” to those who took the shortcut. I’ve never made any plans, but I’ve sure said the words “I should just fucking kill myself” in response to some brutal chronic pain, and in response to being dumped at a very impressionable time. I don’t know how decent people get through these tough days sometimes. And I guess the obvious answer is, some of us don’t, and maybe that’s all there is to it.
The real fucker of all this, of course, how elusive happiness can be, particularly in a world where an admitted pedophile is running for congress, another gun-toting one nearly got elected, white supremacists proudly walk unmasked and half the US is cheering on the separation of children from their families at our southern border… and that’s just a drop in the shit bucket of hopelessness. But it’s a backdrop undoubtedly adding fuel to the dramatic rise in suicide over the last 20 years, the unmasking of the stewing, rancid hate bubbling beneath all that Moral Majority bullshit we’ve choked down for decades.
I knew Anthony Bourdain was deep in the shit when he started posting how Asia made him “happy in the ways he had not been in memory” and she “made him forget himself.” It sounded very much like a man leaning on someone else for not only his happiness, but his reason for living. As if someone else can provide that. They can’t. The same people who are so shocked that a man claiming to be the happiest he’s ever been suddenly takes his own life must be related to the neighbors of that serial killer “He was a good guy, kind of quiet… said “hi” to me.” What do we really fucking know about our fellow human beings.
Not a fucking thing. But it’s sure easy to write a bunch of analysis bullshit after another one of us offs him or herself. Fuck you, Anthony. Sure will miss you, damn it.
Also published on Medium.