June 8, 2018
We’re in the Pho joint right next to Til Two Club in San Diego a few months back.
Pho King….. get it?
It’s a good place, noodles with just enough surface tension, a bone broth deep in flavor with just that faint waft of urine that lets you know the place is legit.
I look up from my slurping and notice a little Vietnamese boy watching me intently.
I look away, but when I look back he’s still staring. I shrug to his Mom.
“He thinks that’s you,” she says.
She points with her chopsticks at the TV montior hanging above our heads.
I look up and there he is, Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown or maybe a rerun of No Reservations.
The kid looks up at the TV where Bourdain is also hovering over an Asian noodle dish, then down at me, and back to the TV again. He laughs.
Got Bourdained, we’ve grown to calling it.
Without fail, on our travels here and there, I inevitably get the double take and then it’s Hey, anyone ever tell you, you look just like….
I come back to the United lounge and sit down with the fellas.
“Got Bourdained again,” I tell Kimm. “That’s three for the day.”
I don’t see it.
I mean, am I really that grey of head?
I’ve always seen myself as more of the Wayne Newton doppelganger, or maybe an Osmond brother with gigantism.
But man, they keep coming up to me to point out the resemblance.
One chap actually cornered me at the back of the plane while we floated a mile above Duluth.
“Hey man, don’t want to bother you, but just wanted to say I love all your stuff!”
I am immediately inflated, thinking, ah, you meet CH3 fans in the strangest places! Now where is a pen for me to sign an autograph and make this mortal’s day special?
But then he takes a closer look and his face falls in disappointment.
“Ah, sorry about that, you’re not him are you? Anyone ever tell you ya look just like….”
What I’ve come to understand is people really love-loved- Anthony Bourdain.
It’s made me appreciate at least I don’t look like Mike Spence for fuck sake.
And for some reason they feel the need to tell me how much they enjoy the shows, can only dream of his lifestyle.
Man, if I could only live like that! I wish!
Now we learn of his farewell, and it hits you like a sock to the gut.
It makes you wonder at the blackest of holes that can lurk deep inside us all.
What deep despair pulls at a soul, no matter if they are lounging on a tropical beach with a Michelin rated chef or sucking cock for rock in the alley?
But besides this tragedy, and the show we will miss– that food, the smarmy commentary! —I think this hurts so hard because we all felt Bourdain was one of our own:
My fave episodes of his shows are when he hung out with musicians.
I think he understood just how connected bands are to food and travel, the twin comforts and demons to any touring band.
There he is, in the city with David Johansen, cruising the backstreets of Helsinki with Sami Yaffa.
And when he sat down with Iggy, you could just feel the adoration Anthony had for the man and the music.
But my very favorite show was when he went to Montana and sat with fuckin Jim Harrison for a meal and a chat.
The grizzled lion of letters, croaking out his poetry in a cloud of American Spirits.
Anthony Bourdain sat, rapt and respectful, and I could only hope I could hold my own half as well in the presence of a hero.
In Kitchen Confidential he was open and honest about the drug use and fuckups, as well as his love of truly good music.
It made him that more relatable to our tribe.
The line cooks with their own demons, listening to the Dolls while blanching the Brussels Sprouts.
Smoking in the back alley before dinner crush, comparing their Cocksparrer tattoos blemished by yet another 2nd degree burn by a molten saute pan handle.
Punk rockers connecting the dots with food, rejecting corporate fast food to search the back alleys for a memorable meal after soundcheck.
Trying to capture the essence of a city by its food, where in the past it may have been a more lethal gluttony.
Now: Ingestion, not injection.
And when we saw him sitting down to noodles with Barack Obama, the graceful world leader meeting junkie punk, we could only feel it as somehow a triumph for all of us in the tribe.
On Damian Abraham’s excellent Turned Out a Punk podcast he shows a respectful and deep history with the New York scene. No celebrity poseur with the 10 grand Crass leather jacket here.
The guy knew the food , the music, the places.
But now another one gone.
This tragic news we consume with resignation, seems like nearly every week.
I never met the guy, no connection at all.
I’m just a fan, just like the people that feel the need to come up to me and point out the resemblance.
They take a moment out of their day to tell me about their connection to Anthony Bourdain, and I can see their love for him even though they are disappointed they did not get to meet the man.
Sometimes, I tell them, “Hell, tell your friends you did, though, right?”
And they think about that for a moment and then nod their heads in agreement.
And they walk away, happy.