It’s strange how we more often feel compelled to pay tribute to people posthumously rather than when they’re alive and well. When we have the opportunity to reach out and tell them how they inspire us or have taught us something valuable.
I’ve always been a little obsessed with the road less traveled. If tourists were going in one direction, I was bolting in the opposite. When we visited Rome during our honeymoon, the last thing I wanted to do was cram myself into the Sistine Chapel among the throngs of people holding their smartphones towards the sky. Instead, my husband and I skipped it to simply people watch at a nearby sidewalk cafe.
Those bizarre, unchartered and sometimes dangerous places that — much to the chagrin of my husband — I’ve always been drawn to are where some of my most surprising, wonderful, life-altering experiences have taken place. And when Bourdain hit the scene with his rockstar approach to travel and storytelling, it was like the travel guru I had been waiting for was finally a reality. And that’s just it, isn’t it? Why everyone loved him. He was real and his subjects were real and it was never some staged interview set among a perfectly lit location. It was never about following the flag of a tour guide to get a money shot of Michelangelo’s masterpiece.
I’m so very grateful to have attended an event at LACMA last year for the premiere of the season eight finale of Parts Unknown, which happened to be Rome. Tony and his producers were in attendance for a Q&A with the audience afterwards. When he walked into the room people cheered at a rock concert decibel, as though Mick Jagger had walked in alongside him. It was electric. People really admired him.
I remember all the whispers from folks around us after the episode was over, speculating that a romance might spark between Bourdain and Asia Argento. Their chemistry literally jumped off the screen and reverberated through the theater. I can’t imagine how broken she must feel today.
More than anything, I appreciated how Bourdain wrote and spoke of Los Angeles and the California high desert, both places I now call home. My husband and I just purchased land in Yucca Valley, minutes away from the Integratron, an architectural marvel in the middle of nowhere in part made famous by Bourdain and his innate interest in all things unusual and unexpected.
He loved the Chateau Marmont, and stayed there exclusively (according to him) when visiting LA. Anyone who is a fan will know this. It’s history, elegance and the role it played in the rock and roll heyday of the Sunset Strip. He seemed to revel in it. From now on, when I go by it’s haunting castle facade, I’ll think of him. Perched high on a balcony overlooking our beautifully chaotic city, a Negroni in hand.
“Los Angeles. The landscape of our collective dreams.” – Anthony Bourdain
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