Searching For Why Anthony Bourdain Died Through His Books

I believe parents reach a rock bottom at some point, where they feel like they’ve failed their children and/or everyone in their life. That they’ve some how screwed up and can’t fix what they perceive they’ve messed up. It could be postpartum depression that percipates this feeling, or the pressure to be a good bread-winner, parent, and spouse getting to be too much to balance. For most mothers and fathers the feeling doesn’t reach the depths of paralyzing depression, but for some the feeling reaches the level of having ideations that it would be better if they die. But how could a parent commit suicide? How could they give up being a part of their children’s life? How could they not see that the feeling is temporary, that there’s joy to be had once it is resolved by asking for help and taking some quiet time to relax and regroup one’s thoughts.

Why am I writing about this? Well, it’s the one year mark of the date when the late accomplished writer, TV host, and former chef Anthony Bourdain took his life. Having been a fan and viewer since his first television show A Cook’s Tour, which premiered in 2002, late this March 2019 I was missing watching new episodes of his popular award-winning show Parts Unknown. It was the first time in sixteen years that I wouldn’t be seeing or hearing anything new from the funny, twisted, and soulful celebrity. There’s been no program as of yet that has come to replace what he brought to the world. Rick Steves is sweet but dull, Andrew Zimmern is frankly annoying, and W. Kamau Bell’s show doesn’t do creative, slightly inappropriate, edgy, off-the-wall, cinematic television like what Zero Point Zero, Bourdain’s production company created. None of them also have the charisma and pathos that makes you want to be their friend like Bourdain either. With Bourdain, if you are a fan you hung on his every word, whether spoken or on the page. He had a way with words that both could shock you, make you laugh, whisk you away, enlighten, and transport you. His writing always reminds me of a combination of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain, Hunter S. Thompson. And he didn’t care about pleasing everyone which made him doubly likeable. As he said himself, “I’ve never minded pissing people off.” You wanted to hear his stories, you wanted to know everything about him, his recommendations and opinions held weight, he was like a God to some and family to others. He filled some human need that like umami is a combination of many things, like travel, adventure, the new, the unknown, the strange, the dark, the light, the far off the beaten path, the taboo, the funny, the human heart. He was reintroducing the idea of traveling as necessity, reteaching people how to not be a tourist, and really get immersed into people and place. He was a magician, his smoke and mirrors was the written word and television, a combination that made him a fixture in people’s hearts and minds.

Since that day we all learned he died, June 8, 2018, I’ve wanted to know why he took his life. Especially since he left a young daughter, named Ariane.

Bourdain and his second wife and daughter (age 3) in 2010. Credit: People Magazine.

Why did Anthony Bourdain die? Was it his girlfriend Asia Argento? Reports say friends were concerned about him being in love with her. Was it mental illness? Was he secretly killed? Had he done something unforgiveably wrong? Did his two divorces make him feel like a failure? Was it fame? What drove him to the point of no return? Having only met him once at a book signing in 2008, all I can tell you from my interaction is that he is a great speaker but painfully shy when it came to the signing of books and interacting with fans.

There’s the news which has revealed 1) that Asia Argento did cheat on him, and 2) that he cheated on her too; 3) that he gave Argento money to pay off an actor who when underage she beded 4) that he was in a dark mood leading up to his death 5) and was exhausted from his travel and work schedule 6) he had significant amounts of alcohol in his system having drank significantly the night before he died.

His suicide caught his friends and family by surprise, and the rest of the world. We don’t know if he kept diaries or journals of his inner thoughts, but one avenue I thought to look for an answer, as to why he took his life was in the books he wrote.

On a side note, a documentary on Anthony Bourdain’s meteoric book success with Kitchen Confidential is a great resource for getting deep into who Tony was, where he came from, and how heady the rapid rise was for him between 2000-2001. The documentary is called Out of the Pan, Into the Fire by photographer Dmitri Kasterine. It was never released, but you can watch a condensed version if you purchase on iTunes the episode from season six of Bourdain’s old Travel Channel Show No Reservations, episode 18, entitled “Where It All Began.” If Kasterine ever releases that documentary, it’s sure to be overwhelmingly welcomed with open arms by the public.

I placed holds on the non-fiction books he wrote about his life and the world around him at the Tinley Park Public Library. It took me a few weeks to get them all but it took me a short time to get through them inspite of my busy life as a mom, wife, and business owner. Here is a list of the non-fiction book I read:

One thing that stook out from the books was how much the death of his father impacted him.

Second, he had dark interests such as crime and idolized criminals, outsiders, loners, and anything other that was deemed wrong by society.

Third, he once had a serious drug problem.

Four, he describes himself as a youth and for much of his adulthood as being a narcissistic, angry, ungrateful, and a whiner. Since kicking his drug problem he reformed and became nicer, thankful and very “Ina Garten.”

Fifth, his divorce from his first wife Nancy Putkoski made him suicidal; his words, not mine. He writes about this in Medium Raw (2010).

Sixth and most revealing of all, in The Nasty Bits (2006) he writes that the thought of committing suicide (by hanging himself with the cord of the in-flight telephone around his neck) on a plane when sandwiched between two very obese women brought him calm and got him through the flight. That’s an odd thing to get you through the flight I thought. Why not the thought of getting your destination and the good time you’ll be having there?

It’s not the first time he writes or speaks flippantly about death, murder, or suicide. Statements like, “One minute you’re on top of the world, and the next —like when you wish to light up a smoke at a bar and can’t—you’re wallowing in misery and self-pity, unable to decide between murder and suicide.” His way of describing things were sometimes for comic effect, to shock, and be edgy, but now in retrospect they suggest that maybe Bourdain wasn’t always just saying things to say them.

It’s well known that Bourdain liked dark subject matter, he was very open about it, and it was pervasive in everything he did. His famous chef’s whites had his self designed skull and knife logo imprinted on them; a nod to his love of pirates.

And have you seen the cover of Appetites (2016)?

Conclusion

I was looking for signs, anything to make sense of why Anthony Bourdain took his own life. I did find the same running themes of “the next book could tank, that the TV thing could come crashing down—this vida loca better last—or else I’m fucked.” This looking at the glass half empty lens that kept him always grateful and hardworking because in his opinion going back to the kitchen “It would break me.” Or the casual way he would drop words like alcoholism, depression, suicide, self-pity. If any of us looked back at what we said and wrote from the last half century of our lives we’d find things that repeat, tells about our character, and world view. With Bourdain you could say he was hinting at his own demise or was just using hyperbole. But overarchingly it was clear he had issues with self-esteem and that most of all he feared failing his daughter and the people he cared about most in the world. Feeling like a failure was familiar to him and the feeling of being a fraud, undeserving of his new life after having had forty-four years of a very off-track life that was not responsible or healthy. He was always trying to be better, to be good, to make up for everything he wasn’t or had been in the past. He was a good soul, but I fear too hard on himself to the point of nihilism and masochism. And worst of all he thought he was the problem. He wasn’t. He took himself out of the equation of his life, for his daughter? For what benefit? What did he feel would be made better by the lack of him? Maybe he couldn’t go on living with himself. Maybe he was so unhappy with himself. Why though, why? He had everything someone could wish for. His own mother said it, “He had everything.” Could it be depression was the reason? He told NBC Nightly News in 2014, “There was some dark genie inside me that I very much hesitate to call a disease that led me to dope.” He didn’t replace into drugs if you’re wondering. His toxology report indicated that there were no narcotics in his system, save for the trace of a nonnarcotic medicine in a therapeutic dose. People online I read said the “nonnarcotic medicine in a therapeutic dose” is code for an anti-depressant. Some theories from the comments I read online suggested that some new medication could have made him suicidal, and that it is not uncommon with some anti-depressant medication.

Something else that stands out to me are two episodes, one from his Food Network Show A Cook’s Tour and the first episode of his Travel Channel Show No Reservations. In one he plays dead in his hotel room, jokingly. The episode is entitled “Los Angeles, My Own Heart of Darkness” from Season 1, episode 17. Skip to the 1m47s mark to get to the almost prescient of his death segment of the episode.

In the other, he is in the hotel where Oscar Wilde killed himself.

His last episode set in Bhutan was remarkably dark, with death being a key subject and the whole atmosphere of the show being quite somber.

As film director Darren Aronofsky, who joined Bourdain on his trip to Bhutan, so aptly put it, “It seems ironic now that on our last day of shooting we performed a Bhutanese death ritual,” Aronofsky wrote for CNN. “We debated the fate of the country, the fate of the world. He was perplexed as to how mankind’s endless hunger to consume could be curtailed.”

From my investigation of his books I don’t know anymore than you why Anthony Bourdain died. Except I feel like there are traces that do suggest a disturbed sense of self. Maybe it was his perfectionism, feeling like it was best to go out on top. But still, why walk away from a charmed life? Is it possible to have too much? Suicide always ends up a mystery doesn’t it, even a suicide note doesn’t tell the whole story. The story of Anthony Bourdain will be told like that of a Hemmingway of travel, culture, food, and politics, with less overdone machoism and more punk rock. It has a sad ending but it’s chock full of great content that generations will enjoy like a time capsule of the world. His suicide I hope will not be what he is rememebered for, instead we should focus on the work he left behind. There will never be another Anthony Bourdain, but his influence I hope will pop up from time to time in the next generation of cooks, writers, film makers, and people of all walks of life. Seeing life through his lens was unique, and we need more people like him who told things from their perspective, their way.

The lesson to be learned for parents is, think twice before you think about taking yourself out of your children’s life. They need you more than you know. Don’t worry about how things are going to work out, focus on the now, and never feel like help is out of reach. Above all, don’t think that it’s too late for you. Anthony Bourdain changed his life around at 44, he found things late in life that no one could’ve imagined possible. You can turn your life around always if you believe in yourself. Believe in yourself for your children, teach them that they are worth living for.

Other Theories:

What Killed Anthony Bourdain? — Stanton Peele Ph.D.

Anthony Bourdain Discusses His Own Death In Indonesia — Esquire

The troubling signs leading up to Anthony Bourdain’s suicide — Page Six

Anthony Bourdain died of a broken heart, says chef Daniel Boulud — Page Six

Drew Pinsky suggests Anthony Bourdain may have accidentally died from erotic self-choking — Washington Examiner

Commentary: Can we talk about alcoholism and Anthony Bourdain? — Chicago Tribune

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Angel Tarot Card Reading at Tinley Park Practical Magic Boutique

Last July, 2018, I visited the new spiritual holistic boutique that opened in Downtown Tinley on Oak Park Avenue, across the street from the Tinley Park Chamber of Commerce’s office. I neglected to write about my experience visiting the boutique so I’m going to write about it now, almost one year later because it still sticks in my mind like it was yesterday. Yes, it was that kind of memorable experience.

I happen to be in the neighborhood attending one of our monthly Marketing Committee meetings at the Chamber office and I was struck by the storefront. It made me think of the 1998 movie of the same name Practical Magic which starred Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. I like the movie and I’ve always been an admirer of the mystical, so I thought I’d drop in and see what’s inside.

Two young ladies greeted me named Tara and Niya and I asked them if the name of the shop meant they also do magic. Obviously inside the store there are incense sticks for every need, crystals, salts, oils, candles, jewelry, and other body essentials, but they told me they also do tarot card readings, angel readings, and oracle readings. Having just had a baby two months prior and I was curious at this point in my life about how things were looking for me as a new mom. They charge $1 a minute for any reading, with $5.00 off any purchase thereafter of $30.00 or more.

Tarot Cards

I went to the back with one of them and she explained what each reading is good for. Ultimately I chose an angel card reading, which is good for the times in your life when you are looking for guidance with your life path. Essentially, it’s your guardian angel telling you through cards what’s up and what’s on the outlook.

The most fascinating part about my angel card reading was how she told me that my baby is a crystal baby. I found some article about how to identify a crystal baby and what they are, essentially what the card had to say was that having my my daughter was a form of healing for myself and that she is a positive force in my life that kind of gives me a second chance at living my best life.

Overall it was a really transcendent reading and very fair. I’d love to go back again. Oh and I must admit that I bought this spray that I know is silly, but they told me that it attracts money and famous people to you. It was a total impulse buy. You know I haven’t use it in a while, maybe I should whip it out again. I mean technically we did see an influx in income this February with a new client to our business Geoffresh. Hhhmmm, maybe it did work and just took a little time. Whatever the case, I definitely recommend Practical Magic in Tinley Park. It’s got a great vibe, no pressure, just great customer service that is educational, and the services and products are really nice. Check it out some time if you’re in the area.

The Facts

Practical Magic Spiritual Boutique

17311 Oak Park Ave,

Tinley Park, IL 60477

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Other Reviews of Practical Magic

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Review of Polish Fusion Restaurant Tradycja in Orland Park

Tradycja first opened on Wednesday, September 6, 2017. Located next to a Fontano’s Sub on Lagrange Road, between 144th Place and 147th Street. The parking lot is a tiny rectangle with only one way in and out, a nightmare if the restaurant is packed and the businesses nextdoor are also still open. The location isn’t ideal in that respect for patrons to easily come and go, but luckily the size of the restaurant isn’t larger than the parking plot it shares with other businesses.

The restaurant attracts mostly Polish people from near and far, but it’s also attracting a wider audience.

There is no exact number, but outside of Poland’s capital Warsaw, the Chicagoland area is home to the second largest population of Polish people, with most concentrated north of the city, and many north of Tinley Park. Polish culture is thus pervasive in the neighborhoods and suburbs of Chicago. When my parents moved us to the northwest suburb of Niles in December of 1997, there was a Polish Deli called Polish Deli a block away on Milwaukee and Crain. I had a college roommate who was Polish and came from the Oak Lawn neighborhood, and I learned from her that there was a bank in her area that only served Polish people. Isn’t that wild? We’ve heard of these neighborhood bubbles where the dominant ethnic group will have their own newspapers, media, stores, restaurants, shops, and apparently banks that enable their people to never miss their homeland. Tradycja fills that void in the Southwest suburbs.

My husband and his family are Polish, though not born in Poland, don’t speak the language, are far from first-generation, and pretty Americanized, they like staying connected to their roots though in ways such as baking kolacky, buying paczki on paczki day, buying Polish sausages and deli meats from Joe and Frank’s, and trying a new Polish restaurant like Tradycja.

Our first time to Tradycja was on February 22, 2018. I was eleven months pregnant and we wanted to get together with friends who also happen to be our friends as well for dinner.

All of us at Tradycja for the first time, February 22, 2018.
The Family Style Platter

The thing to get is the Family Style Platter. It’s pricy at $145 but it is a crowd pleaser, consisting of:

  • Boneless Beef Ribs
  • Rack of Lamb
  • Pork Tenderloins with Mushrooms and Onion
  • Pan Seared Pork Loin with Cranberry and Horseradish
  • Breaded Chicken Breast
  • Bacon
  • Dumplings
  • Sautéed Sauerkraut
  • Baked PotatoesSaveSave

Here’s a gallery of some other items we ordered. The bottom photo with the wooden spoon in the center of a small jar, that’s lard with bread. Probably not what your doctor would like you to have if you’re watching your cholesterol, but for someone who avoids fat as much as possible I could not have enjoyed it more. Totally go for it.

After the complimentary bread and lard, we ordered a mixed salad, then pierogis to go with our Family Style Platter, and for dessert we chose Apple Cake with Raspberries and Pistachio Ice Cream. Everything was very good.

Eileah and her paternal grandpa.

On our second trip this past weekend on Sunday, April 14, 2019 we came to celebrate my father-in-law’s birthday with a lunch at Tradycja. It was Eileah’s first time and she had a blast sampling what we ate, making a mess on the floor, and doing a little socializing with fellow babies that were with their families. This time I had to sample the veal stuffed cabbage (a.k.a golumpki). I grew up Serbian and I’m a really tough critic when it comes to stuffed cabbage. Sarma, which is how we call stuffed cabbage is divine and different from how Polish stuffed cabbage is made. But of course I had to see if Tradycja could redeem the Polish golumpki I’ve had elsewhere.

Though rustic with a unique herb I can’t put my finger on, it just wasn’t for me. The tomato sauce always cheapens the dish in my opinion. Serbian sarma sauce isn’t just heated tomato sauce, the sauce is completely different and cooked with the stuffed cabbage. It consists of tomato paste, smoked bacon, stock, and the cabbage of course adds a great flavor. Aside from the golumpki, our second time was the same as the first, tasty and simple. However, when we told our server that it was someone special’s birthday they did not do the compulsory restaurant tradition of bringing out a petit dessert with a candle on top with some staff joining in a birthday chant. There was a neighboring family who was celebrating someone’s 50th birthday, but the difference I think was that they brought a cake. The servers in their traditional Polish garb sang Happy Birthday in Polish and all was well. I just felt bad for my father-in-law who was left in the cold, but not being one to complain he didn’t look downcast one bit.

What Makes It Fusion?

I almost forgot to address something, what makes Tradycja a Polish ‘fusion’ restaurant? They take traditional Polish dishes and add influences from others cultures such as Asia.

Do I Recommend Tradycja?

I absolutely recommend Tradycja for people looking to experience Polish food closer to them here in the Southwest Chicago suburbs, for people of Polish heritage who miss the old country’s classic dishes as well as unique flavors mixed with traditional plates.

Keep in mind they have a meat heavy menu, but there are delicious vegetarian options in the appetizers, salad, and sides categories.

Give it a try and get immersed. But don’t expect special treatment if it’s an anniversary or a birthday you happen to be celebrating.

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Discover Tinley Park Expo 2019 Review

Discover Tinley is a mixed bag where local Tinley Park denizens as well as curious out-of -towners come to get free stuff, find something their looking for (for example: remodelers), be pleasantly suprised by a new discovery, and kill time. What you find are usually over 100 booths, each with a different business or entity. You have your insurance companies, restaurants, and other businesses, but then you have things like the Will County Model Railroad Club and the Tinley Park Historic Society that are not looking to drum up more business.

This year’s Discover Tinley Expo was slated to have more for families and children. See flyer below.

Now that I’m a mom I was curious to see the new attractions geared towards families and children. The last time I went to Discover Tinley was back in April of 2017 as a vendor alongside my husband for our business, Geoffresh. Today at Discover Tinley we were the general public, and this was our experience.

Entrance at Discover Tinley 2019
Redevelopment of Tinley Park Display at Discovery Tinley 2019

The first thing we saw was a display of the renderings of the future of Downtown Tinley Park and a board that the village wanted people to write out and post what kind of business they would like to see come to the downtown area.

Tinley Park Community Development Board 2019 at Discover Tinley 2019
Tinley Park Historical Society Discover Tinley 2019

Next we visited the Tinley Park Historical Society. One of the people who works there recommended I join a Facebook group they started called, Tinley Park! You Know You Are From There When You Know Its History…Over 3,200 members strong!

Plinko Game at Tinley Park Library Booth at Discover Tinley 2019

Going with the family spirit, the Tinley Park Library’s booth featured a game called Plinko. Where the disc landed determined what you could win in the raffle.

Tinley Park Mom and Family at Discover Tinley 2019
A chef doing a cooking demo at Discover Tinley 2019.
Puppy at Discover Tinley 2019
A puppy available for adoption with Tinley Park P.A.W.S.
Code Ninjas at Discover Tinley 2019
This caught our attention, a new business coming to Orland Hills (neighboring Tinley Park) for teaching kids how to code in different computer languages called Code Ninjas.
Lou Malnati Pizza at Discover Tinley 2019
The concession stand area had nacho chips and pretezels, and booths had candy to give out, but Lou Malnati’s was a godsend for giving away something more substantial: pizza!
High Touch High Tech at Discover Tinley 2019
A lot was said about High Touch High Tech for their science demos, but it was pretty boring unfortunately.
Inflattable Slide at Discover Tinley 2019
White Water Canyon Mermaid Photo Op at Discover Tinley 2019
White Water Canyon’s mermaid photo op was genius.
Dart Board at Discover Tinley 2019
Will County Model Railroad Club at Discover Tinley 2019
At the very last row of the expo Will County Model Railroad Club. They come every year.

Summary

So was this year’s Discover Tinley Park Expo efforts to have a rich offering of attractions for families and children a success? In my opinion it was a work in progress.

The demos were very small scale. I think I passed most of them up because they were so shoestring I didn’t notice them. And while a local celebrity appearance from Svengoolie was a neat idea, he’s a bit more dark and adult for kids.

The event had pretty good attendance, but it lacks in color, verve, and spectacle. I think it’s time to revamp the expo, take the gray shale colored space and make it into a spring block party that leads up to the summer block parties on Oak Park Avenue. I don’t know it this is the best decision, but I know that part of what helps a community boost its spirit and culture is to take occassions like the expo and do more than the bare minimum with them. It’s frankly dull walking through the rows and rows of businesses and organizations, even they look like they’d rather be somewhere else. There are blips of things of interest like the mermaid photo op for my daughter or trying to win prizes, but there’s got to be a better way to inspire people to come out and spend time at the Tinley Park Convention Center. What’s another carrot that could be dangled besides free stuff?


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