TOM DAVIS: The death of Anthony Bourdain, though tragic, won’t slow his impact on my family
“It’s a strange juxtaposition, that in America, we have all of this wealth and opportunity, yet there is so much unhappiness.”
A buddy of mine made this comment when we were discussing the passing of television and literary personality Anthony Bourdain Friday morning in wake of the reporting of his suicide in France.
My wife and daughters were taken aback recently when the news broke of fashion icon Kate Spade ending her life, as well.
The truth is emotional distress is a real issue in everyone’s life, some to a much lesser degree than others. However, we all have some level of mood swings on a regular basis and we each handle those sways in differing ways.
In Bourdain’s case, the news of his death swung my mood considerably downward, but it hasn’t remained that way because when I think of “Tony” I will remember nothing but good things and the positive impact that he made on my life, though we never met.
“Tony was an exceptional talent,” CNN President Jeff Zucker said in an email to employees. “Tony will be greatly missed not only for his work but also for the passion with which he did it.”
Over the last decade or so, I have gravitated away from watching television much. Having three kids, residing in a construction project of a home and maintaining a large tract of land tends to eat at any free time. But mostly I don’t watch much because I’m just not interested in doing so.
However, Bourdain’s work always drew me in.
I discovered him on his Travel Channel show “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” and have followed him through professional moves to “The Layover” and ultimately to CNN’s “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.”
Those show’s concepts were simple: Take an interesting (perhaps a bit eccentric) storyteller and go find interesting (sometimes bizarre) stories in interesting (mostly off-the-beaten-path) places.
Bourdain was magnificent in doing such.
That was the evident work that Bourdain tackled but what he did that wasn’t obvious was he allowed me to discover my “passion,” which was the same thing. I just had to figure out how to travel, discover, and document interesting stories, people and places on a much, much more affordable scale.
I have done so, and life for me, unlike Bourdain’s sorrowful perspective, has never been more enjoyable.
For the Bourdain family (he left behind a wife and daughter), perhaps they can take some solace in the happiness and enjoyment that he brought to so many viewers and readers of his work in a similar way that he has mine.
Bourdain showed me (and millions of others) how interesting our world was and made me want to not only experience it but share it with others, be it family or through Instagram posts.
Having grown up in a two-stoplight town in Indiana, only to spend the majority of my adult life in a no-stoplight town in Indiana, Bourdain gave me the desire (and courage) to go see the world in any way that I could.
“He taught us about food,” former President Barack Obama tweeted Friday, “but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown. We’ll miss him.”
Bourdain made me “less afraid” (or curious, at the least) about the world and so I began to venture out into it.
I’ve traveled to the West Coast, East Coast, Sun Coast and a lot of places in between. Places that the 31-year-old Tom Davis could have only dreamed (but probably would have been too uncomfortable to actually visit, particularly alone).
In true Bourdain fashion, I didn’t just visit New York or L.A. and go sight-seeing among the tourist traps, I walked those cities and allowed them to soak into my soul.
I sat on a street corner in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. at night and watched the young and hip stroll by amongst the restaurants, shops, and bars.
I didn’t get a hotel room in San Francisco; I stayed in an Airbnb in the Mission District and listened to the hosts play guitars and sing late into the summer evening as the distinctive smell of marijuana floated through the house.
I’ve surfed off the coast of La Jolla, Calif. mindful, but never minding, that my wife sat on the beach ogling the 20-something young men doing the same.
I didn’t spend a lot of time visiting Times Square in New York but rather almost always staying in Harlem (in Airbnbs, the experience is more authentic) and walking the sidewalks and neighborhoods of the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens.
There is something captivating about sitting on a park bench with a Diet Mountain Dew in the heart of a city and simply watching the world swirl around you.
What made all of this even more special was the opportunity to expose my three daughters to the excitement of our world.
My children can navigate the New York Subway system with the ease of the quiet roads of rural Indiana.
They know that the Davis family is devoutly loyal to Spirit Airlines and when in Florida a week-long bus pass is purchased, not a car rented. The latter allows them to experience a world that most in their circle never see.
They have stepped over passed-out, young men in South Beach and my eldest has spent a summer living in India without difficulty.
All of that has its foundation in Anthony Bourdain whether my kids realize it or not.
Television’s most interesting personality (in my opinion) will never experience another back-alley eatery in some far-off land, however, his legacy will continue for generations, especially through the branches of the Davis family tree.
Anthony Bourdain’s passing is tragic but his life was spellbinding and I am ever so grateful that he allowed me to experience it.
Thank you, Tony and Godspeed. You will be missed more than you ever could realize.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Tom Davis at Tdavis@news-sentinel.com.
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