What is the difference between “I don’t want to live like this anymore,” and “I don’t want to live anymore?” Where is the border?
When I woke up this morning, I was thinking about slicing up a fresh pineapple, brewing some coffee and toasting some sourdough. Going to turn on my computer for some music, I saw that Anthony Bourdain was dead. I was sad. He was someone I’d read, watched, listened to, and now I was truly bummed that I’d never get to eat with him.
Ironically, I got into watching Bourdain on Netflix when I was recovering from cancer surgery. I was barely able to sit up, on a ‘liquids only’ diet, and watching him wandering the world, feasting recklessly on anything and everything was living vicariously. I’d read his books and enjoyed them, but the narrative of the show was even more compelling. His driving curiosity, his acid wit, his total candor about life were all compelling qualities. His modesty, his shock at his own success, made him so very human.
By the time I was putting that toasted sourdough and sliced pineapple on the table, my older daughter told me it was a suicide.
Then I was heartbroken.
People die; it’s the way the whole thing works. We are born, we live and we die. When people choose to die, that is a different story.
I was just reading the report from the CDC yesterday that the suicide rate in America has gone up by 30%. If you live in North Dakota, it’s gone up almost 60%. And I can imagine Bourdain saying, “Well, Holy Shit, you live in North Dakota? What’s your idea of a good time? A six pack of Pabst and a plate of meth? Do you want fries with that?” But he’d be truly interested in the answer – what is your idea of a good time in North Dakota? Where do you go to eat? What’s the local watering hole? Best ice cream? What do you think of the fracking boom? The meth epidemic? Is there a really American pie?
Was he out of questions, or just out of answers?
That so many people simply can’t find a reason to go on, or can’t negotiate with their own sorrows – what does that say about America?
But our individual sorrow is distilled into our collective sorrow, and for too many, for Tony Bourdain, it was too much.
Today I’m going to celebrate Anthony Bourdain by eating things I love, no matter how aristocratic or proletarian they seem, by drinking some great wine, and starting conversations with strangers. I do all that anyway, but today I will do it with a will, I will do it with relish.
At the end of Huck Finn, that great American novel, Mark Twain closes the adventure by leaving it open. Huck says “I reckon I got to light out for the territories, ahead of the rest.” I reckon Tony is off to parts that are truly unknown.
Where is the border?
All we can do is be glad that he was here.
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