Live On Through Others
With a little over 24 hours in Singapore, I had only one goal in mind: follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain and try some of the same culinary dishes from his show Parts Unknown—a trip I had planned months before his death.
His untimely passing shook me for strictly selfish reasons. I was sad because I knew I’d never get the chance to meet him in person or share a burger and drink at my favorite hometown dive or have a roundabout conversation about life. It hit home because it was yet another artist who had lost their battle with the abyss; a struggle I’m all too familiar with. But unlike most, I don’t have a negative connotation when it comes to suicide. I see at as a way of going out on your own terms. When you’re ready, you’re ready. Neil said it best, “better to burn out than fade away.”
What I liked most about Anthony Bourdain was that he seemed like one of those seamlessly approachable guys. Someone you saw in a suit and tie fine-dining with royalty or presidents, while at the same time down in the ditches with the rest of us, soaking up some blue-collar grub at the tiniest, dingiest diner or dive bar in town. His best quality he was just like us—unapologetic in his behavior, swearing and farting in public with disregard—while also towering above us with his bigger-than-life persona and unwavering commitment to living life on his own terms. That was his appeal. To be both common and uncommon, approachable and at a distance. And that’s what made him so fascinating, so interesting, and so very human.
It’s characters like Anthony Bourdain that make it possible to glimpse outside our cages and see what’s possible. He reminds us that even when we’re gone, we still live on through others. That if you shine your own light, someone will be willing to take the time to retrace your steps, taste the same foods, explore the same haunts, and revisit your words all in the hopes of hearing a glimpse of your voice or discover some residue of your spirit.
And I felt that while walking the streets of Singapore and stopping in hawker centers eating the cheapest, strangest, and most authentic and delicious of foods. Foods like char kway teow (noodle dish made with pork cracklings) that I normally wouldn’t try.
The spirit is not following exactly in footsteps, but in being spontaneous. Using the footprints as a stepping stone into your own figurative unknown. That’s what Anthony Bourdain embodied and inspired. And now the call to be adventurous is all the louder because there’s one less adventurer out there to remind us how to live.