I am watching an old episode of Anthony Bourdain – Parts Unknown – S08E04, London and in my constant reviewing of this and other episodes I have been noticing a trend of diminished joy and happiness. That is my first observation.
The short lived Cooks Tour (2002-2003) was at times youthfully giddy while No Reservations (2005-2012) was in places comically snarky. Contrasted with Parts Unknown (2013-2018) which sadly sacrificed all of that playful food discovery joy for excruciatingly painful social and political commentary.
In rewatching Bourdain in this particular episode, as he hangs out with earlier hosted chef greats, Fergus Henderson and Marco Pierre White, I sense a Bourdain who wishes at times to be somewhere else. Especially watch the scenes with Marco Pierre White and you’ll see what I mean.
My recent conclusion – I’ve posted earlier on Anthony Bourdain – and is, simply put – he had no exit strategy. I wrote a similar opined post (angry, but more sympathetic) while in Oregon last year; a couple of days after his suicide.
I’ll say it again, Anthony Bourdain had no exit strategy; from either television (3 back to back award winning TV shows spanning 16 years) or from the more cruel and relentless taskmaster of encroaching old age.
He did what so many of my friends have done in the past when they’d similarly run of road, and that was to kill themselves (be it directly or indirectly).
I didn’t create this post to either diminish Bourdain’s legacy nor to explain the reasons for his death.
Bourdain and I have shared a lot over the years: a love for food, travel, and writing. We coincidentally were both of that same lost ’60s generation, sharing a love for some of the same literature that chronicled the doomed over-stimulated (aka over privileged) jaded gliteri like Port and Kit from The Sheltering Sky.
We both read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And anyone acquainted with a lifestyle mantra akin to, ‘Faster, faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death’ must know there is a price to pay.
I would like to believe that Hunter himself had to finally admit – at least to himself – what he wrote, lived and espoused for years was a lie. A premature death by suicide or any other means is too grim to be seen in any other light but as a zero sum game.
Following that same analogy, life as a game, calls to mind the story of the three Chinese men playing some game called Fantan. Someone runs up to them and says, “Hey, the world’s coming to an end!” The first one says, “Well, I best go to the temple and pray,” and the second one says, “Hell, I’m gonna go and buy me a case of good whiskey and a dozen whores.” The third one says “I’m going to finish the game.”
And that is it, simply put; something Hunter S. Thompson, Anthony Bourdain and many others never figured out.
And that is nothing counts unless you finish the game.