Bob’s Big Boy is where I saw my first person die. As if there have been tons, like I served in Iraq or something. We were off 95 on our way to Walden Pond for an overnight high school field trip. Stopped for lunch at the oasis, Bob’s bright smile frozen in red and white checkered plastic. I had just finished eating a burger with fries and a coke, standing at entrance of the restaurant, waiting to get back on the bus, the grease still lingering in my mouth. Balding man, pot belly, sitting in a swivel stool, maybe 63. I saw him fall fast, tipped over like the last bowling pin, a french fry still in his hand. Heart attack, I think, but I wasn’t thinking. I looked at my friend Jon, we had been in CPR class together. How do we start, with a breath or chest compressions? I asked him, frantic, imagining my mouth hovering over the lips of the balding man. I don’t remember. Jon spoke the truth of CPR training, who really does remember? We gawked, immobile for a few more seconds until our bus driver pushed past us, deftly straightened the man, started compressions. Turns out our bus driver used to drive ambulances, witnessed the dying, the dead, dozens of times. Some of my classmates turned away, but we stared until we knew for sure that the man would never stand up again. Lifeless eyes, cold french fries, his plate of food half-eaten.
I once tweeted @Bourdain, urged him to do a plant-based show in Malibu. Told him Rich Roll could be his local guide to the vegan scene. Rich liked the tweet, but I never heard from Anthony Bourdain. No surprise. Not that I’m a hardcore vegan, but I wanted to see Bourdain truly out of his comfort zone.
No, he was far more relaxed on the Congo River, skinning chickens, maybe eating their feet. I was never in man awe of Tony, he was too dark to be one of my guys, but I admired the way his imperfect teeth smiled at people, all people. The Thai women stirring brains in a bowl, or the men serving aged cheese in the French countryside. He was a true food ambassador, simultaneously common and noble.
Suicide by hanging, people seem to emphasize, but to me death is death. We all go out; slowly, quickly, healthy, ill, sane, or not. The end waits for all of us. It is not how we died, but how we lived. But that might just be me. The Anthony Bourdain that I read and watched on CNN lived truth. Truth of love. Love of food, booze, exploration, humanity. He was once addicted to heroin and to life. I guess all addictions eventually end.