I never had many people around me that I looked up to. With the exception of a family member or two, there have never been many “stand out” people in my life.
I wasn’t someone who looked up to sports stars, movie stars, fashion icons or any other seemingly glamorous person.
But I did have Anthony Bourdain.
Whether it was “No Reservations”, or “The Layover”, or “Parts Unknown”, I was immediately put into a trance once this often jaded, pretty unglamorous, person was on my parents’ screen.
At the tender age of 9, I was introduced to who I thought had to be the most fascinating person Earth had ever seen and will ever see.
Then 2018 came.
At first, I couldn’t understand it. How can the world’s traveler, who seemed to have found love in any corner of it he had ever found himself in, leave it?
But then the logistics of it all hit me.
Bourdain was a person who had a family, but would often be away from them. Who could make friends anywhere, but never bring them with him.
Bourdain had to have been lonely, I thought.
I wish I could say that “Roadrunner” proved me wrong. But it didn’t.
The documentary focuses on the last two decades of Bourdain’s life.
He was successful, then even more successful, then somehow more successful still.
Then he suddenly fell.
Through a series of interviews with Bourdain’s closest friends and colleagues, Bourdain seems to have been the exact person I thought he would be. Mostly.
I figured he was a loving partner and father, given the romantic way he was able to describe the world around him.
I figured at times he hurt the people closest to him, given his occasionally nihilistic persona.
What I was surprised by was the portrayal of his addictive personality. While I knew that he was once addicted to drugs, I didn’t think that personality affected all areas of his life so deeply.
Bourdain seemed to soar at happy points in his relationships, but any turbulence seemed to crush him.
He seemed addicted to his work, despite saying he felt happiest when he got to spend time with his family.
This might be why Icarus fell.
Bourdain seemed to be addicted to the highs of his life, but we all know that life isn’t exclusively a high point. And Bourdain couldn’t deal with the lows.
Somehow, the man who seemed to have everything, was unhappy. The man that was afforded the distinct privilege of being able to learn from all of Earth, was unsatisfied. The man that could go anywhere and be loved, was lonely.
Bourdain’s series taught me a couple things.
One, that I wanted to be a journalist. While Bourdain didn’t consider himself a journalist, I think he was what a journalist should be. He gave voice to those too tired and weary to scream of injustices. He showed the cruelty of the world, and how unnecessary it all was. But he also showed that in a seemingly dark place, there is always love and kindness.
I am not bold enough to dream that I’ll ever be able to travel the world and get paid for it like Bourdain did. I am bold enough to believe that one day I’ll write an article that will matter.
Second, Bourdain showed me the dangers of living in a bubble. How can one possibly learn if you only ever listen to people that think like you do? That eat what you eat? That dress like you dress? Bourdain taught me that you probably can’t. And there is no pride in ignorance.
“Roadrunner” taught me one thing.
I’ve always believed that I would be a happier person once I reached my career goals. Now, I’ve never thought this was more important than being attentive to those who love me and that I love. And I doubt Bourdain ever thought this. But maybe somewhere in the dream chasing it is possible to forget those who care for you in reality.
“Roadrunner” didn’t make me feel closer to Bourdain. How can I ever feel close to a man as big as the legend that Bourdain is? But it did remind me to not forget that I am important to some. And that’s enough for me to stick around for all.
I’m not a believer of the afterlife, but if there is one I hope Anthony Bourdain is traveling well. Or maybe finally resting.
“Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” is out now.