Escape Route

Posted: June 18, 2018 in Body Count, Humanity is a virus, Shovels

It’s been a kind of rough time for creative types.  In recent weeks, we’ve seen some high profile instances of Nope-ing out.  While I have no particular connection to Kate spade, the loss of Scott Hutchison and Anthony Bourdain both hit me kind of hard.

Hutchison is the singer and songwriter for Frightened Rabbit, an amazing band.  Of course, Bourdain was a famous chef and raconteur and an actually worthwhile reality TV host, who has spent the last decades of his life traveling the world.

These are not the first nor will they be the last of people I respect that depart this festering sphere.  But, neither is it inappropriate for me to respect their passing; seriously, people who make their mark on the world and indeed even if they don’t they still deserve being marked when we send them off in a pod into the great unknown….

Scott Hutchison, I will respect by listening to his music at length and mourning what he will never write and sing for us, but that will be a personal thing.  His singing and music is a personal taste and I love it, but I have no idea if you do or not.  But, you know, you are here through the internet so you can find it and decide for yourself, and I love the idea that you might be hiring it for the first time. Use headphones.

But the thing about Bourdain.  Wife Sublime has a tendency to only listen to reality TV and news and such, which is kind of annoying when it is Fareed Zakaria.  So I tune it out, and have never really watched Bourdain’s show.  Although I saw a clip of his lunch with Iggy Pop and was completely charmed by two old, grizzled survivors of punk and drug lifestyles sharing a healthy meal.

So, after Bourdain pulled the eject lever, I found that 8 seasons of “Parts Unknown” (excellent title) were on netflix, although they threatened that they were not long to last, so I’ve been bingeing them…and they are lovely and wonderful and so full of life.

What we find is a person who has a raging curiosity and love of people and every permutation of their foods, being given free rein to go where he wants and do what he wants.  He walks down streets without fear, and eats food from street side grills, usually never even worried about what he is eating before putting it in his mouth, and invariably saying “Oh, that’s good”.  I am a fan of meat of most times, and I love chicken livers and marrow, but I still kind of winced when he busted a grilled rabbit head open to eat the ‘chiclet-sized’ brain, and then considering that ‘next year, I am making these for Easter’ which made me laugh my zombie ass off.

During the course of what I saw, he spent as much time on the reality of the places he visited for people, races and economies as he did for food.  He went to Iran, and the people were so hopeful for improved relations with America, which now seems so distressingly unachievable.

Everywhere he went, he used his love of every cuisine every and every food of any kind, to reach out and create connections to people of all kinds.  And it was fucking CHARMING.  I recognize, of course, that this was TV, and we do not see the whole of reality, but this is Bourdain’s show, and he writes and produces.  He says, more than once, that food is the thing that connects people across races, languages, and political lines.

He was a handsome guy who made it look easy.  When he sat down for a bowl of noodles with President Obama in Vietnam (yes really) he said “I think every American should have a passport” I felt proud to have one.  When I saw him in places I have visited, I said “Damn!  I wish I had been there!”

Sidebar.  We are visiting Nashville in the fall, and he has a Nashville episode.  while I doubt we will get a Tattoo at a house party with the Singer of Dead Weather/ Jack White, we have some new ideas….

But here’s what I want to say.

Scott Hutchison wrote some wrenchingly, tragically personal lyrics and had his band play them.  yes, they are moving and amazing.

And Bourdain insisted on being the sole writer for his show.  And there are times where he does a monologue over video of himself, walking by himself, through various cities.  He often talks about his discomfort with crowds, and his hatred of carnivals.  and in one (now painful)  episode of Buenos Aires, he talks about how easy it is for him to slip into depression based on nothing more than a bad hamburger.

And this is what I really want to talk about.

I have mentioned a couple of times, we have a nephew who was adopted by our brother/sister in law, who was amazingly smart and limited by the really small community he grew up in – in a bigger community he could have found a geek/brain community, but there he couldn’t.  We thought about offering the opportunity for Mike to live with us for a summer or a semester in Milwaukee, where he could take classes at one college or another, or just live in different environment, but regrettably, it never happened.  And after a terrible descending spiral of damage and hatred and finding no way out, he wound up in the back yard of his parent’s house, blowing his brains out.

But in the cases of Scott Hutchison and Anthony Bourdain, it has been the kind of thing were we see that there are, yes there are, signs.  So many of Frightened Rabbit’s songs are distressing.  And so many of Bourdain’s shows involve video of him walking, solo, down weird alleys.  And most heartbreakingly, during a visit to Buenos Aires (where everyone, basically, goes to a psychotherapist) he went to a therapist (also went to a meat grilling joint later) where he talked about how he has the best job in the world, but he also is able to be launched into a several day episode of depression by having a shitty airport hamburger.  It was reminiscent of the members of Joy Division, who admitted after Ian Curtis killed himself, that they never really paid attention to his lyrics.

The thing is, both of these guys launched themselves into the heart of the sun when they were in desperately lonely situations, but in both cases, they had really put up as many fucking alarm flags as you might have wanted.

And somehow, with all those people watching and being part of their production; nobody was listening.

  1. Mikey Hemlok says:

    Very nice. Thanks for this. Do read the book that started it all, ‘Kitchen Confidential’. It’s a story, a text book and a lesson in life and resilience.

    As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety for decades, and only in the last 8 years have understood that it wasn’t ‘normal’ and I was broken and needed medical care, Bourdain’s death touched me in a way that others – think Robin Williams – didn’t. I’ve been a fan for a long time, and his way of writing/speaking/viewing the world always resonated with me – although, to be honest, I have never had, and will never have, his patience and compassion.

    The thing I really noticed ‘this time’ – the thing that caused me to write a series of posts on FB – is that even now, even today, so many people who don’t suffer from mental or emotional problems simply don’t GET it. On one hand, that makes sense – how would you understand something you have never experienced? But some things are simple.

    Most of the time we’ll tell you a fib. Go to the Art & Wine festival? Sorry, I can’t, I um, hurt my ankle. Because if I tell you that the crowds and the noise make me uncomfortable, you’ll just scoff and tell me to suck it up. Because the crowds and the noise don’t make YOU uncomfortable. Then there’s the whole ‘you don’t need meds’ crowd. Just fuck those guys. Yes. I do. Without those pillz I would by now very likely be residing in the center of the sun with Tony Bourdain. Yes, there’s a stigma, but I can handle that. It’s the people who just don’t/can’t take it seriously, who think you’re lazy or slacking or just a big pussy that are the biggest problem…

    • People are judgmental, and I think it’s in self-defense. On a related level, I’ve been kind of surprised at the responses after I spent another episode in the ICU after life-threatening events; people want to know what I was doing wrong, how much exercise, what I was eating or not eating, and filled me in with what I figure they saw as helpful advice, invariably based on things that they were doing. It seemed to me to be a psychological defense against their own mortality, in that they wanted to feel that while I had problems, they were safe, they weren’t going to have a PE.

      For instance, with the pulmonary embolism (scary fucking words no matter when you hear them) the doctors asked me many questions that help to determine whether there are behavioral or genetic markers that indicate the likelihood of those fucking little clots; but after questioning and tests, there was no proximate cause that they could determine. As one doctor said, “you just got lucky”. Thanks Doc! Now I feel better!

      Sometimes, you just get shitty luck, and it’s nobody’s fault. That doesn’t make you unworthy of help.

  2. On his shows, he often discusses his career path, and one thing comes through; how uncomfortable he was with the arc of his media career, and the speed with which it happened. He has no idea why, and repeatedly expresses his feeling that he deserves none of it.

    • Oregon Beer Snob says:

      Thanks for this. I started watching Bourdain on his earlier Travel Channel show, “No Reservations” and loved him immediately. He really seemed to come into his own with “Parts Unknown” though, and it was wonderful. I just watched his penultimate “Cajun Mardi Gras” episode, which is amazing. I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch his final show yet.

Go ahead, tell me how I fucked up this time.

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