When I woke up this morning and checked my phone for email and messages, the first thing I learned of the outside world was that Anthony Bourdain had died. I didn’t believe it. I checked another source, and then a third. Then I turned on the television. Nope. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t find a source that reassured me it was a hoax.
There are bigger fans of Anthony Bourdain than I am. There might even be a million of them. But I’ve read one of his books and I’ve seen nearly every episode of his TV shows and I felt almost sick to my stomach when I saw his face and I heard his voice. Knowing that he killed himself. A person whose sensibilities I so admired, who told such terrific stories. Someone who made me, an untraveled person, feel a little more like a citizen of the world. God damn. And then to know that depression got him. Something I know a little about. And that he wasn’t that much older than me.
I was already destined to feel a little grumpy this morning because of some election results last night. My horse didn’t win and while I wasn’t necessarily devastated by it all, I was cranky. So I changed the channel to escape the terrible Bourdain news and saw Donald Trump taking questions from reporters just before he was about to board a plane to come to Canada. To Quebec. A place Anthony Bourdain loved. Everything is just so wrong this morning, I thought. The Triple Crown of Shit.
But I showered, got dressed, ate some fruit, and headed to school for the first time in thirty years. I don’t really go to school yet but I’m investigating the possibility. When I got to campus and was a little lost, I asked a young woman for directions. She asked me if I was a new teacher. I said no, I was looking into a class for my son. And then I felt a little embarrassed that I might have begun my new academic career with a lie.
I didn’t know what to expect when I got there. I thought I might feel really old around college age kids, that I would stick out and be much more conspicuous than I would prefer. But I was wrong. It turns out that once you pass a certain age, you don’t look old anymore. You become invisible.
While I awaited my appointment, I had to kill some time and so I walked up and down the hall, alternately looking at bulletin boards and sipping from the water fountain. Of the posters I came across, the one that caught my eye was promoting an upcoming triple bill of cover bands re-creating the music of 1994. The bands were Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden. I was twenty-eight in 1994 and was only months away from meeting my wife.
My meeting, which was supposed to last for about forty-five minutes, took twice that amount of time and when I finally left the building, at three o’clock on a Friday afternoon, it was the first time since Ronald Reagan was president that I was excited to be freed from school. But instead of running to a pub or hopping on a Greyhound Bus for Montreal as I may have done the last time I was a student, I headed downtown to meet my wife so that we could get some groceries. I have a feeling that if I do eventually go back to school, it’s going to be a little different than I remember.
When I returned home, I saw that Anthony Bourdain had been on television all day. But so had Doug Ford and so had Donald Trump. And as I returned to watching the coverage, it became clear that Bourdain was the only one of the three who brought people together. And he did it with intelligence, with passion, with humour, with curiosity, and with humility. And with all the sadness that his departure brings, that’s what I’m going to try to remember. His understanding of inclusion.
And tonight, when I looked through our PVR and saw that there was only one episode of Parts Unknown left in the bank, the Berlin one, the one with the Bowie music, I felt a little lonely. But then I smiled. And I knew exactly why.