If you are contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 now.
Why the fuck did you do this to us, Anthony? Didn’t you know how achingly important you were to so many of us?
There’s no one, now, who we can call the rightful heir to Hunter S. Thompson’s legacy. It always was you, and only you. Even worse, you left us at a time when we most needed your voice. We needed you to celebrate when the Harvey Weinstein’s of this miserable planet got fried. We need your caustic bite and beautifully coarse wit. We craved the precision of your palette; you were the true American taste-maker and no one will ever come close to replacing the massive crater you’ve left in our miserable fucking lives.
Anthony Bourdain shouldn’t have gone out like this. Not to say there was any shame in doing so, but it is clear that his end was so fragrantly at odds with his personality. His heart should have collapsed under the weight of his caloric strain long before his mind did. His brain should have stroked out against his will, overloaded with a richness of life that strikingly few others had ever experienced. And unlike so many other self-obsessed celebrities, his humility grew alongside his success and notoriety. He was a national treasure, now gone forever.
Mr. Bourdain was one of the exceedingly few celebrities I wanted to emulate. He connected with bookish weirdos like me, with people who say the wrong things at parties and have a tendency to drag conversations into the profane. We’re skittish dweebs, and Bourdain spoke to us so well. He made us believe there was a place for us, a community where we belonged.
He was a walking contradiction. He was a recovering addict who still drank. He was a world-class chef and author. Who amongst us – besides Bo Jackson – could top the world in two different categories like Bourdain? And if he can become so world-weary, with such a vibrant personality, loving family, and an embarrassing wealth of talent and success, how much hope do I have?
On the drive home, I listed to my local NPR station talking about the editorial decisions that news desks have to make in the wake of a high-profile suicide. Details of the suicide, if broadcasted – the data seems to indicate – lead others to follow suit. This is precisely why I am so fucking furious with Anthony; people took his recommendations on noodles, and some people will take their lives – in some small way – because he did, too.
I won’t hold myself up as a massive fan of his; I read him sparingly, in small pieces. But that, in my view, only stands as evidence to his prolific talent as a writer. You didn’t have to read him to hear his voice, to view the world from the inside of his eyeballs. His prose, delivery, cadence and word selection was unmistakably his across any medium. Text, spoken word, video presentation, whatever, it translated. It connected. It landed. That is the true test of any writer. Bourdain was a silver-dicked unicorn; a best-selling author whose work transferred seamlessly to television, a former line cook and crack addict who dined with the President.
People love celebrities, and when celebrities die, praise and adoration pours in at first in a rapid tsunami and is often forgotten quickly as it came in. This is different. We won’t ever get another Bourdain and we’re all worse off because of it. And therein lies the awful truth – mental illness can get you no matter who you are, what you’ve accomplished, or how hard you’ve fought. It’s for this reason that my stomach has soured on the “survivor’s language” when it comes to mental illness. Everyone’s ‘fighting’ or ‘battling’ their issues and if staying alive is ‘winning’ then what do we call suicide? Losing?
So, goddamnit, Anthony, I’m gonna have to go through the rest of this life without hearing your inimitable voice. I’m going to swallow you up, motherfucker, and absorb what you taught us about this world, about empathy, about kindness, about everything. I’m going to drink too much, eat more of the gristle, travel more, and do my damnedest to follow in your footsteps.