Damn it, Bourdain
The morning my dad died, Raz took the day off to be with me and we went to Salumi, the famous cured meat and sandwich shop in Seattle's Pioneer Square, opened by Mario Batali's father. We went because Anthony Bourdain told us to. Or, at least, I felt like he did.
I wanted to make sure that wherever we went and whatever we ate was amazing. What do you eat on the day your favorite person dies? Where do you go? What do you do? All I knew was that Salumi was a place I could trust because Tony went there. And I had invited Tony into my living room week after week to tell me where to go and what to eat. I knew, on a day when I was unbearably sad, I wouldn't be disappointed by my lunch. Silly thinking, I suppose, but it still makes sense to me. Because it was one of the few things I could control. It was a decision I didn't have to think much about.
Of course, because of Tony, word had spread, it was high tourist season, and most of everything was sold out. But the staff at Salumi went above and beyond. They recommended a combination of items for sandwiches that were off the menu and delicious. They offered us a carafe of house wine. They were kind and they didn't know anything about what had led us there.
Today Tony is dead. Allegedly it's suicide. We all knew Tony had demons. We didn't know if or when they'd win. Do we ever know?
I recently read a Q&A with Tony in People (I can't seem to find it online) where he talked about how isolating his travel schedule is, that he was on the road 200+ days a year. Much of the conversation I'm seeing on the socials mentions that he had a "dream job." Certainly parts of it were dreamy, but I can imagine that for someone wrestling with a lot of big things, so much alone time—and trust me when I say work travel is a lot more alone time than it appears—can exacerbate anyone's big things. And their little things.
Several years ago, I went to see Tony alone at a theater downtown as he talked about his new book. It was the first time I'd done anything like that, but I felt so compelled to see him speak that I went. I came home clutching an autographed copy, thrilled at all the snark he'd spilled. I couldn't believe I had been so close to him! Of course I didn't dare trying to speak to him because I run away from anyone even close to celeb status like one of us is contagious from something terrible, but STILL. TONY AND I BREATHED THE SAME AIR. It was incredible.
Anyway, my point is just like my dad, Tony was sick. It was different, but it was still a sickness. And this tweet resonated with me. I am so grateful suicide hotlines exist. I'm so sad that the suicide rate has jumped 25% in the past two decades. But we can't expect sick people to do all the work for themselves. We MUST do our part. You think I waited around for my dad to call me every day after work when he had brain cancer? No! I called him like a psycho girlfriend until he answered the phone in the middle of his weekly City Council meeting I always forgot about. I'd say, "Oh. Yeah. Okay. Just wanted to say hi and that I love you."
He was sick. I called him. Sure, he called me, too. But I called him more. I needed him to know that I loved him and that he mattered. And, totally, yes, it was selfish, too. I wanted to know he was still alive. Mental illness isn't as apparent, but when we're close to the people who have it, we usually know they do.
Tony made my dad's death a little easier for me. I hope someone is bringing his family comfort today. I'll think of him often and be grateful for him always. RIP, Tony, my curmudgeon-y inspiration, who was always there, making me feel a little less cynical and, a little more curious, and a lot more hungry.