The Beautiful Intimacy: A Tribute to Anthony Bourdain

What if Anthony Bourdain killed himself because he loved life too much?

Bourdain was a man who worked more than 200 days a year on the road. He visited the most incredible locations on the planet, dined in the most celebrated restaurants, drank the world’s most distinguished bourbons, caroused with celebrities, and pushed the limits of adventure, ecstasy, and craftsmanship beyond their breaking points.

He was a man who had not one but numerous peak experiences. Whether collecting edible fauna in Copenhagen for the restaurant Noma, ascending stupas in Pagan, Myanmar, sailing in Portugal, flying helicopters to the Amazonian heart of Colombia, sipping Pina Coladas in Old San Juan- or a thousand other moments of unutterable bliss- he came to a point without a peak. At a book talk in Sydney, Australia, Bourdain remarked somewhat morosely, “I don’t get excited by Truffles anymore.”

Perhaps Anthony Bourdain was so in love with his life that he became contented with the dampening veracity that there is no peak experience greater than the last. Bourdain was a lot of things, but clinically depressed was not one of them. He was human. He was harsh. He was offensive. He was arrogant. He was liberal. He was so damn smart. He was believable. He was trustworthy. He was sympathetic. He was an addict. He was redeemed. As someone who became famous at the age of 44, he was not afraid of failure. Above all else, he was an American original. Only America could have produced an Anthony Bourdain.

And like America, he was a bouquet of paradoxes-all of which made him wonderfully flawed and curiously relatable.

For one, he reported stories that almost no other mainstream news outlet wanted to cover, yet he ultimately went to work for CNN, the most mainstream news network in the world.

As a journalist and chef he was open to almost any cultural experience, but he rejected vegetarianism and veganism as first world luxuries. He could be open minded and passionately tolerant and also condescending and disparaging toward particular groups and individuals.

Bourdain was intoxicated by food, dance, history, family, language, and the rituals of life. He was also morbid, cynical, and sometimes misanthropic. Fascinated by war and social breakdown, he often gravitated in his voyages toward the lure of violence and death.

And lest we forget, he was a devoted father of an 11 year old daughter and madly in love with his girlfriend Asia Argento. In the end, he seemed to be doomed more by the fragile forces of tenderness than the dark energies of anguish and cruelty.

As a realist, he was always grounded enough not to fly high above the simple pleasures which make it all worthwhile: good food, good friends, and good conversation. As only he could put it: “For a dinner date, I eat light all day to save room, then I go all in: I choose this meal and this order, and I choose you, the person across from me, to share it with. There’s a beautiful intimacy in a meal like that.”


Healed by the Call

George grows slimmer as she waits.

Like the moonlight inside,

George waits.

He is a devil healed

by the call.

Poisoned with prayers.

Smeared with parchment.

Inked with rhyme,

              George waits.

Inside the politics of humility.

                   He waits.

Inside the integrity of madness.

                    He waits.




Trump White House Views Migrants as Subhuman

The Trump White House does not see migrants as full human beings. They see them as a horde of invading pests. Trump himself has recently used the word “infestation” to describe immigrants from Mexico and Latin America. That is why-despite his executive order- it doesn’t matter to his administration that children were separated from their families, and babies were detained. The children and babies are, in their minds, future rapists and murderers. As they see it, they are like their parents: moochers, freeloaders, parasites, and aliens. Speaking of gang members but generalizing all migrants, Trump has stated on more than one occasion, “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.”

Of course, this is not the first time the world has witnessed such blatant campaigns of dehumanization. Every genocide is founded on the premise that some superior group possesses humanity while another subhuman group is deemed inferior. That’s why the Nazis referred to Jewish people as rats needing to be exterminated. That’s why the Hutu in Rwanda referred to the Tutsi as cockroaches. That’s why the Ba’ath Party in Iraq referred to the Kurds as dogs. That’s why Islamic fundamentalists refer to Americans as infidel snakes. Every war fought has been waged under a banner of hatred towards the dehumanized other.  By making families from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico into the other, the Trump White House has waved the banner of hatred as high as their arms will reach.

History has demonstrated that the only force which can prevent humanitarian crises such as the one occurring on the border is for people of good faith and moral courage to stand up and resist. The Trump White House is not upholding the law with these policies. There is a moral law that every national law must obey. No, all Trump is doing is testing the willpower of the American citizenry. Trump is straining to see how far he can go. If the American people let him get away with interning babies without their mothers, what will be next? Who will be next? Soon there will be detention centers for women who get abortions. Then there will be prisons for homosexuals. After that there will be incarceration camps for journalists who challenge the administration. Ultimately every political opponent will be locked away. And if you think you are safe, think again. If at any time you decide to speak out, there will be a special cell with your name on it.


When the Nazis came for the Communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

-Martin Niemöller

A Marriage Blessing

Some will say
that it is too early
or too late.
Love is always on time.
Some will say
that it is too expensive
or too complicated.
Love is free.
Love is simple.
Some will say
that it is too risky
or too dangerous.
Love is fearless.
Love is safe.
Since before
the age of borders,
you crossed over
into each other’s arms.
Since before
the age of genders,
you shared one heart.
Since before
the age of races,
you shared one skin.
Since before
the age of languages,
you shared one tongue.
Since before
the age of laws,
your bond was official.

A Security Deposit Guarantee Will Help Combat Poverty

Poor people do not need surveys, studies, research papers, websites, fancy buildings, grants, volunteer opportunities, art projects, and pats on the back. Poor people need cash.

One of the positions that made Dr. King so radical is that he actually wanted the government to fight poverty by providing every American a guaranteed middle-class income. King wrote: “We must create full employment or we must create incomes. People must be made consumers by one method or the other. Once they are placed in this position, we need to be concerned that the potential of the individual is not wasted. New forms of work that enhance the social good will have to be devised for those whom traditional jobs are not available.”

With King’s vision in mind, I propose a basic security deposit guarantee in the amount of $1,000 to anyone making less than $30,000 a year. Those who have worked on the housing issue know very well that one of the biggest obstacles that poor people face today-at least in terms of attaining independent housing- is coming up with a security deposit. Anyone who has worked on the poverty issue knows that one of the biggest factors that keep people shackled in chronic poverty is the lack of safe and affordable housing. Wouldn’t a basic security deposit guarantee help solve two major social problems at once? The money would go directly to the landlord’s account, thus avoiding the risk of being squandered or redirected to some other need besides housing. Only landlords that meet certain standards would qualify to receive the stipend. If well developed, this program could be a model of efficiency, fairness, oversight, and results.

Let’s be honest. There are a number of governmental and nonprofit agencies that claim to provide help with attaining rental assistance. Unfortunately these services are often encumbered by several limitations. More often than not, they are one time loans, restricted by geographical range, based on referrals rather than cash, dished out sparingly, and, in general, bogged down by red tape. As attempts to alleviate poverty they are simply not working.

As King understood better than any economist of his era, the way to fight poverty is to give the poor weapons to fight with. There has never been a better weapon in human history to fight poverty than cash. Cities that offer a basic security deposit guarantee for low income citizens can do more to bring them out of poverty than almost any other measure. A combination of sources including federal allowances, municipal taxes, and non-profit charitable donations can be used to attain the necessary funding. If carried out in earnest, this program has the potential to be one of the most pragmatic anti-poverty initiatives ever put into action.

George Cassidy Payne is an independent writer, social justice activist, and adjunct professor of philosophy at SUNY. He lives and works in Rochester.


rochester poverty banner
Photo by George Cassidy Payne


For Teachers!


Activism is the Rent I Pay for Living on the Planet

Alice Walker once said, “activism is the rent we pay for living on the planet.” Speaking as a white American male who is able bodied, heterosexual, English speaking, university educated, reared Christian, and endowed with birthright citizenship, I know exactly what she means.

My favored position on this planet is both a blessing and a burden. I am blessed because I have been granted every conceivable privilege under the sun. I am burdened because my privilege has too often come at the expense of my fellow brothers and sisters, people just trying to survive with dignity. For example, my gender has oppressed women. My whiteness has discriminated against people of color. My citizenship has justified imperialism. My able body and mind has contributed to the perception of disability in others. My western education has propped up a global caste system. My English language has monopolized other cultural experiences. My heterosexuality has intimidated and bullied the LGBQT community.

With Alice Walker’s words as my reminder, I am compelled to view my activism as the price I must pay to not only live on the planet but to live with the planet. If I do not fight for women, I am against women. If I do not fight racism, I am a racist. If I do not fight nationalism, I am a terrorist. If I do not fight homophobia, I am a gay basher. If I do not fight Christian triumphalism, I am a Christ killer. In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “If we are neutral in situations of injustice, we have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

It is really that simple. I must choose activism because I cannot afford to waste my gifts sitting on the sidelines of social conflict. Truth be told, there is no sideline to sit on. We are all in the game. The only thing that matters is which side we are fighting on.


Photo taken by George Cassidy Payne