Remembering Tony Bourdain
'The Star Ferry to Kowloon at night. Lights of Hong Kong behind me. It’s a gift. A dream. A curse. The best thing. The happiest thing. Yet also the loneliest thing in the world.'
It was Job’s that reminded the world you can only connect the dots looking backward. To try and do that in the context of Tony Bourdain’s suicide is fruitless. It can’t be understood. It’s not understandable. We won’t make sense of this one. But in his voice on the Star Ferry in Hong Kong in Season 10 of Parts Unknown gives us a glimpse into the mind of the man.
The best life.
The worst life.
The loneliest life.
7.4 million people surround the Star Ferry in the bustling metropolis of Hong Kong and yet one man can feel totally alone: what a ridiculous experience it is, being human!
Tony Bourdain got everything I’ve ever wanted in his professional life. And then he killed himself. It wasn’t enough.
Maybe it hit me so hard because I had to make peace with the fact that getting what you want won’t make you whole. Maybe it’s that the same flashes of darkness and reflection I saw in Tony, I see in myself. Happiness as a human ebbs and flows, comes and goes like the seasons and takes a lot of effort. That looking out at the world and accepting what it is, is something we all must do. Maybe it was that I’d never get to interview him, share a drink or smoke a joint and look out at the world with him.
I think Tony thought that there was something inherently tragic about life. That there is nothing you can do about living but also nothing you can not do; the world turns with or without you and you’re on this ride forever pal.
Parts Unknown was an exploration of the world’s cultures and it’s people masked as a food show. The food was a pawn: it was simply a vehicle for the culture to present itself. Tony understood better than anyone to ever do it that the way to understanding someone is by breaking bread. Jack Dorsey may believe that Twitter is facilitating the first ever true global dialogue but he’s wrong; Tony did.
We will never make sense to each other on Twitter. It’s not possible. It’s not going to happen. Abandon ship. But we will make sense to each other across the table. Breaking bread is like sharing a piece of us. A hold over from the times we visited each others fires and sharing food was life or death. The feeling you get when you’re welcomed into a warm kitchen is unlike anything else. It’s deep within us. Good food and conversation with people are different than I am is one of my few true loves.
I still haven’t watched the final season of Parts Unknown because then I’d have to admit it’s over.
One hell of a ride. A lonely ride. An incredible ride. The most mind-blowing ride you can possibly have: being human.
Thank you for letting me find myself in you Tony. Thanks for bringing us along for the ride.
Thank you for bringing us to the places within us and outside ourselves we may not have discovered.
Thank you for bringing us….to Parts Unknown.