My son’s name is Anthony; my brother too, as well as my uncle. In my Xbox 360 basketball video game, I made a custom player for the New York Knicks named Tony Anthony; he’s a 7’6 small forward (with a six inch afro) that has the highest overall rating in the league. I guess you can say I have an affinity for the name Anthony.
It sounds silly, but tragic stories affect me a bit more when it involves an Anthony. So the news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide affects me in a different way than say that of Kate Spade. If I had a daughter named Kate, I surely would’ve picked up that copy of the New York Post I saw, the one announcing the famous bag designer had taken her own life.
But today, I couldn’t walk past. After playing my lotto numbers at the Sri Lankan corner store, I rushed to leave so I wouldn’t miss the next bus to St. George terminal. A Manhattan-bound Staten Island ferry was departing in 15 minutes. However, the picture on the front cover of the Post–of the man my son shares name, height, lankiness and prison-shank-sharp sarcasm with–stopped me before I could get outside.
I took a chance on delaying my exit with a 30-second transaction. (The Post was $1.25 and it took 25 seconds to find the one quarter I knew was somewhere in my bag.) I risked it all–the next bus and ferry–to buy a newspaper I really don’t care for, so I could find out what happened to Mr. Bourdain. I already knew–my daughter, the culinary artist of the family, told me in an early morning text–but I was still kind of in denial.
The headline, “PAINS UNKNOWN,” jolted me into reality. (It’s a wordplay on Bourdain’s popular food show, “Parts Unknown.”) I’ve watched several episodes over the year; the last one I can barely remember had him somewhere overseas, maybe Italy or Turkey, in an obscure hole in the wall, commenting that their beer, or innards (or perhaps both), was noteworthy.
I’ve only met one TV chef personality in real life: Marcus Samuelsson. I bumped into him near Marcus Garvey Park, several years ago, around the corner from the Harlem Public Library. We took a selfie together, which earned me considerable cool points with my daughter. He said I should bring her by his restaurant, the Red Rooster, during off-peak hours. (I wonder if the offer still stands?)
I think it would’ve been considerably cooler to meet Mr. Bourdain, though. I imagine him saying, “What’s with the ‘Mr. Bourdain’ shit? Call me Anthony.” He was like the consummate counter-culture celebriry chef–what Rachel Ray would’ve been, if she had been more of a fuck up in her younger years.
Mr. Bour–, I mean Anthony, seemed like the Keith Richards of the Food Network; he photographed really well in black-and-white, and his acerbic wit would’ve made him a great person to have drinks, dinner, or do black tar heroin with. (I’m joking about the last one…unless you’re into that sort of thing.)
Anthony struggled in life, first with heroin addiction, and then with debilitating depression. He once remarked that staring at a sad hamburger, from an indifferent airport food court, could trigger a days long descent into despair. I myself am intimately connected to Anthony’s struggle–with depression, not heroin.
But being a Black man, hanging myself was never an option; yet at one really low point in my life (while residing in a men’s homeless shelter), I started stockpiling pills and scoping out bridges. Medication helped lighten my dark clouds. I don’t know if it would’ve prevented Anthony’s tragic fate. Anti-depressants can have funny side effects. Some make you feel suicidal.
In light of Anthony’s passing, I think I’ll do something different the next time I exit the Sri Lankan corner store: instead of jumping on the next bus, I’m going to visit the Sri Lankan restaurant next door. According to my daughter, the Mango Lassi drink they make at Asha is delicious–delicious enough that I should try it in spite of my lactose intolerance.
Asha also has a vegetable roti and mutton roll that come highly recommended, as the perfect accompaniments to the Mango Lassi. And while I’m waiting for my order, I’ll be sure to take a picture of the restaurant’s interior. I hear they have Anthony Bourdain’s picture *hanging on the wall.
*That was an unintentional poor choice of word, and I was going to edit it out (decorating the wall sounds better), but I’ve decided to keep it as is. Look at it as a toast of cold Vietnamese beer to Anthony’s IDGAF spirit.