Parts Unknown - Missing Anthony Bourdain and His Compassionate Voice For American Cities

If you love Charlotte, Phoenix, Nashville, Orlando, Atlanta, Dallas...any American boomtown, move there. You will always be scared of cities of like Memphis and St. Louis (never explored Detroit and Baltimore as a non-tourist, so can't include those yet).

St. Louis is gritty and scarred, imperfect and challenging. But, it's livable and rewarding if you have a desire for parts unknown.

St. Louis always felt like a city Bourdain would appreciate...St. Paul Sandwich's are damn good and weird. Pork steaks are too.

I don't see many people on T.V. that I can relate to. But Anthony Bourdain seemed just cool and imperfect enough to take notice, I bet he could roll here, although he never covered St. Louis in any of his T.V. shows.

His recent suicide had me in the dumps for awhile. 

He reminded me that travel is not about exclusive resorts, selfies and humble bragging (or worse), it's about the privilege of being with people from another place and making the most of where you are and the things you hear/see and the food you seek. Food is culture. Food is a universal need and the local flavor is what we seek in our comparatively lame-ass travels.

The best meals/conversations I had/overheard in a recent trip to Chicago were not on Michigan Avenue or downtown, they are in hot dog and smoked salmon joints in the parts of the city that make me feel at home.

I loved this guy's approach to life and professional endeavors...and I guess his public persona. 

I read a lot about his impact following his premature death at age 61. Here's one of the best from the Detroit Free Press published June 8, 2018:

"Anthony Bourdain wasn't born in Detroit. He never lived in Detroit. But the noted chef, cultural icon and television star's death, still hits close to home for the Motor City.

Bourdain was a big fan of Detroit, having visited several times over the years, including in 2013 for his hit show, "Parts Unknown." He called the city "beautiful" and "magnificent" in an interview with the Free Press in 2016 and had glowing things to say about the city in talking with others.

"The boundless hope and dreams and optimism of its builders is reflected in the architecture," he told Mark Kurlyandchik in 2016. "I feel anger seeing the extent to which it has been allowed to crumble. I feel hopeful. And I feel a tremendous appreciation that people have stuck it out and are proud of their city. They're loyal to it.

"It's truly a great city and the font of so many important American economic and cultural improvisations and movements. That it could have been allowed to come close to failing is a national disgrace."

I feel this EXACT WAY about St. Louis as a ~20-year resident. He got it, he got us (post-industrial American cities). A soul like this is a soul like mine (selfish, I know)...but he did good for many.

I guess you never get to know a place when you visit it in brief travel. You only have your limited experience in time and place. But if you make the effort to get off the beaten path, the rewards can be memory-forming and life-affirming. There are rewards living in a beaten city with scars beneath sleeves like St. Louis.

Remember, if you call yourself a St. Louisan, even if you don't live here, get off the toasted ravioli/frozen custard/Cards baseball path every now and again and dig a bit deeper. Keep scratchin'. Keep trying to understand and keep trying to connect. Get awash in the dirt of history and come home and take a shower and be a better person in a new day. Exploring parts unknown have brought us treasures in music, cities, limited travels and friendships.

Miss you Bourdain. Miss you more Elliott Smith and Mark Linkous and others...depression is a bitch.