(My goal was to emulate Anthony Bourdain’s writing style and narrative voice while writing this.)
A lot of details in my life were, to put it softly, up in the air.
Fate had pressed the reset button on my life.
I had more couch time during this year then ever before. Not a good thing, folks.
I was used to the thrill of the night, the crisp smell of New York City hot dogs, pretzels, and streetmeat permeating the air of wherever I ended up for the evening.
I neglected my mom’s couch and TV for years and didn’t look back, until the time came where I had to, as us literary types would say, ‘gracefully surrender the things of youth.’So with no job, an upcoming IT course to take in the summer and a will to resist my former temptations, I got comfortable and found a few shows to watch.
It sounds easy, but for me it wasn’t.
When it came to TV in 2015, I was a strict ‘only movies and sports’ guy, with a hard pass on any TV series. Back then, I couldn’t sit still. I hated being inside and sedentary for too long. I figured my time was better spent outside, being with human beings than watching other human beings on the idiot box.
I started watching ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ and ‘Ancient Aliens’. I had a good laugh every week and a plethora of alien conspiracy theories to catch up on. I loved both shows but was easily bored after a few months, which is why I tended to shy away from TV shows in the first place.
Then I stumbled upon an old rocker-looking type fronting a travel show called ‘No Reservations.’ I watched Anthony’s Bourdain’s trip to Colombia. And then to Beirut. And then to Seoul. And then to Tokyo. And then I re-watched the Tokyo episode two more times. And then Johannesburg, and then Madagascar… I could go on.
I was more eager to cook new recipes (or even cook at all, at first) after watching a slew of episodes documenting his delicious meals, late nights, and heart to hearts with friends and strangers alike.
Watching Parts Unknown and No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain became way more to me than just finding a show to watch. He was my tour guide, giving me and his audience a casual, blue collar-esque, gritty yet beautiful view of the world. He spoke my language, and I don’t just mean English. I loved the way he interacted with local communities abroad. Bourdain focused less on ‘high-end cuisine’ and landmarks, and more on the people that passed by, lived, and worked in or near the famous, touristy crowd magnets.
He seemed comfortable everywhere he went, interacting with any and every local willing to give the white-haired, tatted up American man with TV cameras the time of day. Bourdain showed me places I never knew of before that by the time the credits rolled, I often had them listed on my travel bucket list.
While I applied to jobs, learned a new career, and stayed out of trouble, every new place he showed me strengthened my aspirations. “I want to be able to travel like this,” I thought. Bourdain had a traveler’s dream job, through his culinary and writing skills. I thought maybe one day my writing skills or something else could afford me the same.
Of all the tens of thousands of TV shows ever made, there’s really only one time my actual neighborhood was shown at all, and it was Anthony Bourdain’s episode about The Bronx. It blew my mind to see him walking down White Plains Road, 233rd Street, and meeting DJ Kool Herc, the founding father of Hip Hop music, at Moodies Record store in Wakefield, the Bronx. Tony was already my self-proclaimed ‘old man goals’ before this, and it was a uniquely heartwarming moment for Bourdain to walk down the streets I grew up on, looking around my neighborhood with the same admiration and curiosity as he would to any other place in the world he had visited.
It’s pretty clear he has influenced me a lot. I don’t like to think he’s gone, he’s just on his way, traveling somewhere else. – RSM