We had so much in common. We shared a love of exploring the world, of connecting with people, of tasting great food. We shared a desire to remind everyone that people are just people, no matter where they came from or looked like. And we shared a struggle with mental illness, with the voice in our heads telling us that, regardless of how good things might seem, nothing was ever going to be truly alright.
I am writing this from a rest stop on my way to explore Southern Oregon, and to write about the experience. I know that when I am there, I will often think to myself, “What would Anthony Bourdain see in this place? How would he find a bridge?” You see, for me, and for so many others, you were more than a television personality, an edgy but approachable chef. You were an inspiration, and a large part of the reason I have devoted my life to following in your footsteps, connecting people to ideas and cultures they hadn’t previously thought much about. It is hard to imagine that task without you leading the way.
We have never met, and I doubt you would have even known my name. But unbeknownst to you, you were my friend. You have been a frequent dinner guest at my home, me on the couch and you on the television screen, a coffee table and a plate of pasta between us. We have laughed together at your self-deprecating humor and failures at fishing, gasped at your tumble down a sand dune and attempts at skiing, and smiled as you connected with people you’d never met, finding common ground over a home cooked meal in some corner of the world.
You have been my companion on my trips around the globe, inspiring some of them, but present for all. I have eaten chicken rice at a hawker centre in Singapore, climbed a pyramid in Mexico, and watched the sun set into the Pacific Ocean, and heard your familiar phrase, always in your voice, tell me that “this does not suck.”
I am sorry I couldn’t be the friend to you that you were to me. I am sorry that I never told you what you’ve meant to this would-be writer. I am sorry that when the walls closed in and the voices got too loud that I couldn’t tell you that I understand, and that I hear them also.
Tony, I don’t know what you believe comes after this life. Heck, I don’t even know what I believe. But whatever it is, I know that you will approach this journey with as much class, humor, and love as you have shown on all the adventures that have come before. And I am confident that one day, we will meet over a cold beer (water for me) and share our stories.
Thank you for being a part of my life. You will be missed.
(Image courtesy of Time.)