Twice this week, the New York Times app notification on my phone popped up to tell me terrible, sad news that I truly hate to hear. First, that the world lost Kate Spade to suicide Tuesday morning, and today, the anguishing thing I heard very first things this morning is that suicide has claimed Anthony Bourdain too.
Out of the grungy, baggy flanneled, maroon colored 1990s, Kate Spade made pops of bright color, pert design, polka dots and classic styles legitimate choices again, but in a fresh new way. Thank you, Kate for making it okay to be preppy again, and for designing my current tea kettle. Though I don’t know much about her personally, I am extremely sad to imagine her 13 year old daughter enduring this crushing, unspeakable loss. It just astounds me to try to grasp this horror that is major depression, that it can drown out all of the “whys” that drive us forward through the sunniest days and darkest pits of despair.
The news of Anthony Bourdain death has wrecked me today. He let us into mind to the point that while I’m perfectly aware that he’s a stranger, he feels like a friend–A very cool, feisty, funny, eloquent, sassy, smart-talking, take-no-shit, adventurous, real, brutally honest and frighteningly fun friend. I can say with assuredness, that his singular approach to showing us the world, the whole world and its multitudes of cultures, experiences and flavors has shaped my adult life. By coming into my home and showing me what it is to truly experience another culture with openness, without fear and judgment and pretension, I became compelled to put travel at the forefront of how I will spend my money and precious time on earth to the extent possible. After watching the Granada episode of Parts Unknown, I said to Bjorn “we should go to Granada” and we proceeded to re-watch the show, take notes, and then follow his every footstep through that haunting, magical, majestic and delicious city. Granada, Spain, remains one of the best trips of our lives.
As a person who loves writing, and aspires to write, and who deeply enjoys food and sharing it with others, Bourdain’s writing especially grabbed me. I often think about how Anthony Bourdain ground out his first books in the early morning, before going to work a long and brutal day as a chef working in the trenches. Anthony Bourdain’s ability to have an experience, to connect meaning to it, and to turn around and convey to us with such clarity and stark, surprising eloquence—that is to be a good storyteller, to be sure.
To be a person informed by his own gritty experiences, to be so down to earth that you can dine with paupers and presidents, and to pull no punches in showing us to leave presumption at the door, sit on the floor and truly to be with people–Those are doors that Anthony Bourdain opened in this world for so many of us. The encouragement to accept the invitation to both the finest restaurant tables, and the humblest of homes and food stalls, in both far away places, and our own American back yard have given so many people the courage to say yes, and to seek and enjoy experiences, textures and flavors many would not have known existed. Anthony Bourdain taught us that lesson, over and over by example, and by blunt admonishment. I am so glad he did.
I did ask Anthony Bourdain a question once, from the audience during the question and answer period at one of his speaking engagements in Minneapolis. It was something to do with the band Jon Spencer Blues Explosion being the music in the opening credits of No Reservations. I thought it was a brilliant connection to make with him, since he’s also expressed a particular fondness for certain music, and Blues Explosion is one we have in common. Maybe the question fell flat, or maybe I caught him off guard by bringing up music in a room full of foodies, but I remember not being entirely thrilled with his unsubstantial response. You’ve been more than forgiven for that one, Tony.
I am terribly sad that the pain or darkness behind the scenes became insurmountable for you, Anthony Bourdain. I don’t know what you were going through, and I don’t know how we could have saved you, but I know there are literally millions of people’s lives whom you’ve touched who wish like heck they could have tried. It is terrible to me to know that you aren’t out there exploring, that there will be no more words from this gifted man. I cannot imagine how your daughter, girlfriend and her children, and all of your other friends and loved ones are feeling today. It has to be so dreadful. My heart goes out to those who grieve today.
I know when you are in a deep, dark place, and there seems no way out, asking for help might be impossible. This is a scary, hopeless place to be. For us to beat the suicide epidemic, we have to face it together, and talk about it. We need to reach out to people in the depths of despair. For my friends and strangers who struggle with depression and other issues, please just stick out your hand. There are people who will talk, listen be there in it with you. There are people all around who want to walk with you through despair, profound sadness, anger and misery and to see you emerge on the other side. You may not be able to see it when the darkness holds you, but there is a reason to go on. You matter so so much. Just hang on.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255