NEVER MEET YOUR HEROES
I knew Anthony Bourdain... Like you knew him, not personally, but the guy he played on T.V. I spent more time with him than anyone I never met. Read his books, watched his shows, then watched them again and again. His voice is as familiar to me as any.
So yeah... I didn't "know" him. But it sure felt like I did.
But that's the thing, isn't it... He had a way of being, on camera at least, that felt personal. It felt like he was accessible. Like there was at least some sliver of a chance that you could walk into a bar in Brooklyn or Bangkok, and he'd be there. Sat at the bar, waiting to have a deep, meaningful conversation over a cold pop. Maybe he'd tell a joke I'd never fully understand. Either way, he'd be there... with me.
He seemed like a "regular Joe." Kurt Cobain and Hemingway all rolled into an admittedly imperfect ball of torment and beauty. By all accounts that I've heard, at least, those that really knew him confirm what most of us saw on screen. That was him.
Maybe to a fault.
I think that's why his death, his suicide, to call it by name, was breathtaking. It was heartbreaking. Sobering.
But it wasn't shocking.
He told us it was coming. Even told us how it would happen. Maybe we had hoped he'd gut it out, keep going until his body decided he was done. I think we all knew it would be his mind that called it.
I haven't watched another episode since his death. To think of it nearly brings me to tears even now. Which is fucking odd to consider. I didn't know the man. He wasn't my uncle or cousin. He wasn't my friend. He was just a guy I watched on T.V.
I've never been a fanboy. I don't collect autographs. The thought of meeting Dicaprio is cool and all (as he happens to be filming in Oklahoma at the moment), but I wouldn't go too far out of my way just to shake the guy's hand. Famous people are still just - People - that happen to do a very public job.
I had a chance, not long before his death, to meet Bourdain at a book signing. My wife was going to buy me tickets for a birthday gift. She made the mistake of asking if I'd like to go.
I said no.
I think I felt that meeting him, in that contractual, buffet line, here's- your-handshake and hastily scrawled moniker on a cocktail napkin manner just wouldn't fit. I think it would've shattered the myth of the man. It would have stolen the idea of him waiting for me at the bar, made it real that it would never happen. Not really.
In some ways, I do regret it. In most ways, I don't.
I think I'd rather cling to my imperfect version of the imperfect man.
Instead, I'll hold the myth in my head a bit longer. Try to fish out what it was about him that meant so much to me.
If I'm honest... I think it's that he represented the best and some of the worst of what I've always wanted to be. As a writer, as a man. He summed up the idea that I can work towards the thing, I can struggle for it, sacrifice for it, I can even hold it for a time if I'm lucky.
But in the end - I can't keep it. None of us can.
His death was a gut punch. Not because he was my pal, but because he was me. The "me" I thought I wanted to be... And if he couldn't bear the weight of being. Who the hell am I to think I'll fare better.
Like you, I'll never know what demons he fought. And I don't need to. I've got my own wars to wage, my own adventures to chase, my own story to create.
And someday, hopefully, many years from now, my own end to face.
More than anything, I think that's what shakes me... losing him made that day seem a little too close.
A little too soon.
I saw that there is a soon-to-be-released documentary about my old pal Tony called "RoadRunner." Maybe I'll watch...
Maybe I'll hold onto the myth a bit longer.