Television is good for two things and two things only: Shows about food and shows about travel. So I was sorry to hear of the death of Anthony Bourdain this morning, because Bourdain was a master of both. Possessed of a healthy skepticism about the human race, he nonetheless found much in our character to admire as he travelled around the world, even though, on balance, the bad may have outweighed the good. And he was as honest about himself as he was about the world he took his leave of too soon. “Maybe that’s enlightenment enough,” he once said; “To know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom is realising how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.” I’ll be raising a glass to his memory at Cafe Katja this afternoon. Brian Stelter’s obituary for CNN, Bourdain’s home network, can be found here.
Bourdain’s television career may be most remembered for a meal he shared with then-President Barack Obama in a small Vietnam restaurant in 2016. “He was funny, quick to laugh,” Bourdain wrote. “When I asked him if he ever missed being able to go out to a bar, sit down by himself and have a cold beer while listening to old songs on the juke, he smiled and said ‘in about six months.'” Bourdain went on:
When I asked him if it was OK that I get along with Ted Nugent, who has said many, many deeply offensive and hateful things about him personally, he responded “of course” — that that was exactly the sort of person we SHOULD be talking to: the people who disagree with us.
He was oddly resigned to and forgiving of his enemies. And when I asked him if — given the very likely ugly and frightening contents of the daily intelligence briefings to which he is privy — if it was “going to be OK” for my daughter as she grew up, he replied with confidence that on balance, it would.
And we all hope against hope that Obama was right. Until next week.