RIP Anthony Bourdain

It’s been more than a year since I’ve written anything on this site. But the awful news about Anthony Bourdain seems like as good a time as any to start again.

I hate to think of his ending as sparking my beginning (again). As a friend put it, these countless in memoriam posts are self-serving. Though I think that is a lesson that we learn from his death, that we need to serve ourselves sometimes in order to readjust and make sense of the world and our place in it.

My fondness for Bourdain was as great as anyone else’s. I devoured his books, especially “A Cook’s Tour” which came out at about the same time that I was waiting tables at night and writing about travel during the day. He was remarkable in that he could be irreverent and sincere all in the same sentence. He was unflinchingly honest but kind. He put other people, places, food, and cultures at the center of his work but didn’t hesitate to insert himself into the action so that we could understand his perspective, preferences, biases, and humor. None of his words felt forced. The seemingly effortless way that Bourdain wrote about food and travel and the people he met along the way translated perfectly to the screen, too.

The man was unpretentious. He ate on the street, at holes-in-the-wall, and at McFoxy’s, Ukraine’s answer to McDonald’s. Though he had exacting standards when it came to food, he wasn’t afraid or embarrassed to eat as regular people would eat – not just in Saigon or Penang or Rome but even in the US Midwest. Indeed, he embraced it. While reading all the remembrances to Bourdain, I was moved to learn that he had come to the defense of 80-year old Olive Garden reviewer Marilyn Hagerty when the internet was making fun of her. Likewise, his visit to Xi’an Famous Foods in Flushing, Queens, helped an immigrant family grow their business into the “American Dream.”


It’s hard for many to fathom what must have gone through Anthony Bourdain’s head when he decided to take his own life. Here is a man who was at the pinnacle of his profession, who was loved and admired by people from all walks of life. I have seen tributes to him from Punjabis and Palestinians, from busboys and top chefs. He was living the dream and doing it with curiosity and empathy.

But I get it. Depression is difficult to understand and it comes from out of nowhere. I think it’s particularly difficult to deal with for those who are at the top of their game and see nowhere to go but down.

I’ve been struggling with mild depression – unease? disappointment? – for a while now. And it’s galling because I feel selfish about it. My life is, on the face of it, incredible. Every day that I wake up in Rome, I feel grateful. I am exactly where I want to be, geographically if not professionally. Now that there are some new adventures on the horizon, I’m reluctant to move. There’s the feeling that I am never going to be as happy as I am now. And that further depresses me because I’m not even as happy as I could be or as happy as others think I “should” be.

Anthony Bourdain’s death has been eye-opening not just because I realized how many others, from all over the globe, felt about the man and his work. It has been surprising to see how many others have written that they, too, are afflicted with depression. Sadness seems to be the default mood of everyone, not just something that a few are struggling with. Maybe it’s the world we live in now. Maybe it’s the (middle) age of most everyone around me. But I think Bourdain’s passing has driven home the lesson that he was always trying to teach. We are all more similar than we are different.

Sam Barsky - Colorknit

He Makes Sweaters of Places Then Takes Photos of Himself Wearing the Sweaters at the Places That Inspired Them

This is one of the more delightful things I’ve seen on the Internet in a while.

I found Sam Barsky, aka Colorknit, via a link on imgur. His dedication to and enthusiasm for his craft is exactly the kind of inspiration I need for coming the year.

See more of Sam’s creations, from desert highways and waterfalls to the Golden Gate Bridge and Manhattan skyline, by clicking on the links above.

 

Awesome Email Templates for Responding to Potential Clients

A few years ago, I wrote a silly post called Top 10 Email Subject Lines for When You Just Want to Say ‘Hello.’

The post was an inside joke that turned into the most viewed post in the history of this site. I’m embarrassed that that simple post, which offers very scant advice for writing emails, turned into such an SEO hit.

But I think that I have found a way to make up for that post by pointing you to a very helpful tool from designer Jessica Hische. Jessica’s Client Email Helper provides several fun “choose your own adventure” templates for writing back to people who want to work with you.

Choose your client (ad agency, friend, etc.) and budget (“none” to “good”), and the tool generates a short but sweet text for you to make your own.

Below is the text for “General Client” with zero budget. It strikes a firm but friendly tone. Make sure you check out the rest of Jessica’s templates as well as her whole beautiful site. Once you see her incredible, award-winning graphic design work, you’ll see why she has had to craft so many client letters over the years.

General Client email response via Jessica Hische:

Dear __________,

All the best,


 

My Son, The Prince Of Fashion

You are born into a family and those are your people, and they know you and they love you and if you are lucky they even, on occasion, manage to understand you. And that ought to be enough. But it is never enough. Abe had not been dressing up, styling himself, for all these years because he was trying to prove how different he was from everyone else. He did it in the hope of attracting the attention of somebody else—somewhere, someday—who was the same. He was not flying his freak flag; he was sending up a flare, hoping for rescue, for company in the solitude of his passion.

“You were with your people. You found them,” I said.

He nodded.

“That’s good,” I said. “You’re early.”

via GQ | h/t Andrew Schreck