Anthony Bourdain: A Life That Ended Too Early

Far too often the personalities in the food entertainment industry are fake or just paid to promote products. Anthony (Tony) Bourdain was far too real for those celebrity trappings. As the author of Kitchen Confidential, he opened up to reveal the reality of the commercial kitchen and the life of a chef. The glitz and glamour was stripped away to allow the average person into the hot, sweaty, smelly back room that most movies or cooking shows at the time, would never dream of portraying realistically.

Over the years, Tony worked his ass off creating successful restaurants, and eventually as a travel/food show host with an edginess and fervour for the truth and love of food and the culinary industry. He never backed off when it came to what he wanted to say and how he felt about the topic of conversation, or the food itself. In the simplest terms, he was real.

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Unfortunately, today we have learned of his untimely death by suicide. I don’t know, nor will I speculate as to his reasoning for taking his own life, but I do know one thing; suicide is almost never the answer. Life is tough, we all have to go through it, but bear in mind that just because you feel one way today, doesn’t mean you will feel that way forever. Once again, I can’t even begin to understand what Tony was going through, however, I am certain that there was someone he could have spoken to, and I know for a fact that his family will have to deal with his decision for a much longer time than he does.

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I have been in depressed states in my past with an eye on ending things prematurely, but I credit my strength to my not wanting to let down my family or hurt them in unimaginable ways, and Gary Vaynerchuk, who motivated me to get off my ass and make my life worth living. I just wish that for Tony, he had had the same thought process, and found a reason to keep going.

For those out there that are contemplating suicide, please do yourself and your loved ones a favour; talk about what it is that you are going through. You are not alone, even though it may feel that way sometimes, there is always someone out there that will listen.

Take care of yourselves!

tony b

 

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Know Your Guide

When visiting a new province, state, country, or an unfamiliar body of water it is best to head out with a guide, at least for your first trip. Most beginners or non-anglers would believe that any guide service in a particular body of water will get you on some fish, maybe even that trophy you’ve been looking for. But any avid angler that has chartered a guide, especially a one that isn’t great, will tell you to do your research.

Recently, I took a trip to Fort Myers, Florida to visit my parents who have a small condo on a golf course. The bass fishing in the ponds around the course is good, but I had grown a little tired of fishing the same old spots. My brother-in-law, who also happened to be there at the same time, suggested that we go goliath grouper fishing. We had seen the videos online, which were absolutely insane, and decided without doing research on the guide or experiences had by others, to book a trip. He was charging $800USD for a 4-hour trip. I thought the price was a little steep, but he was supposedly the best.

We showed up to the marina about 15 minutes early and proceeded to wait. The guide showed up 20 minutes late, and made some excuses for his tardiness. It wasn’t a big deal to us as long as he gave us back the time on the end of the trip. However, to our disappointment, the story got worse.

He took us to the bridge pilings where the GG’s shelter themselves from the sun. He instructed me to grab a jack – a small but powerful fish – out of the bait well so that he could hook it up. I assumed, as I began to open the lid, that there would be at least a dozen or so in order for us to have enough bait to last the entire trip. Man was I wrong. He had one. Yes, only one baitfish for us to use on these monster fish. I grabbed the jack by the tail, pulled it out of the water and handed it to the guide. He hooked it up, then handed me the rod. He then verbally instructed me on how to lower the fish into the right area, and right away I got a bite. This is when things started to go really sour. Myself being a bass angler felt the bite and tried to set the hook. The GG ripped the jack from the hooks and I was left with no bait. The guide decided that now was the time to tell me that I was supposed to reel down on the fish, which was no help now that we were out of bait. He also had the audacity to ask if I had ever seen his videos on YouTube, hinting that I was supposed to learn everything about GG fishing from some low budget videos of him basically screaming like a banshee.

With no bait left, much to our dismay, we were now paying to do his job, which is preparing for a fishing trip. So he threw out a large bait net and dragged in a bunch of small bait fish, dumped them in the bait well and started up the motor so that we could head over to another area in order to catch more jacks to use as GG bait. Three hours later, we had two jacks in the boat and less than a half hour left in the trip. With the ride back, which he counted as time on the water, we were done for the day.

I have since been informed that this is not a unique experience, which did very little to calm me. I was angry because I had overpaid for jack and snook fishing which basically set up the guide with bait for his next trip, was yelled at for not being able to read his mind, and all the while had to listen to delusional stories of greatness by a guy who had just ripped us off.

I can’t stress enough, that should you use a guide service, do your research before you book anything. There are review websites and social media outlets that are littered with customer experiences. You could even call around the area to the marinas or bait shops, which usually know a number of guides. While they may not throw one of their own under the bus, they can steer you in the right direction.

Fishing you the best of luck!

The Big J is for Jerome

The caravan of tourist driven rental vehicles snaked slowly up the mountainside toward what was once known as the “Wickedest town in the west”. In the distance, rocks formed a large snow-white letter J which contrasted with the foliage and red rock of the Cleopatra hillside as it overlooked the tiny ghost town. I ran my sandpaper tongue over my dry, cracked lips as we passed an old sign that read, “Welcome to Jerome, Arizona”. The anticipation of fulfilling another bucket list item grew stronger with every passing mile. The intense heat of the Arizona desert only served to increase my anxiety. Our twelve-passenger van proved almost too large for the narrow, winding streets of this abandoned copper mining town. As I laid my eyes on my true destination, a pinch on my arm was necessary to confirm my being conscious.

I hopped down from the oversized vehicle, like a child on his first field trip, full of excitement and anticipation. Four of my five senses were abandoned leaving me to survive solely on tunnel vision. I crossed the single lane meant for two-way traffic in a zombie like state. The cavalcade of tourists and local hippies roaming aimlessly throughout the art shops and the spillover of bikers from the neighbouring town of Cottonwood were merely a blur. Being drawn in closer as if caught in a tractor beam, an invisible wall slammed me to a stop but a few feet from the door.

Breathing deeply, I inched forward, for there was no turning back. I had finally arrived at Caduceus Cellars, an intimate wine tasting room owned and operated by a lifelong idol, Maynard James Keenan. Having been a fan of his bands, art, and philosophies on life, I felt a tangible connection to him and his work.

Floating through the winery, my senses were restored allowing the scent of wine and weathered oak barrels, along with the familiar sound of Maynard’s music to comfort me in this surreal experience. Awaiting the arrival of my group, I squeezed past the other patrons, scanning the inventory of wine, clothing and other memorabilia, which lined walls and covered tabletops.

Trickling through the door one by one, our group was boisterously greeted by an unrefined yet welcoming tattooed woman. She stood no higher than five feet with a larger-than-life personality. She promptly took our order returning only moments later with glasses and our first tastings.

I closed my eyes as I sipped away, allowing the fruit and tannins to fill my mouth and nostrils. For the first time I understood the effort involved in the arduous process of working the land, as well as the years of back breaking labour and mental exhaustion before a single harvest was made possible. Most overwhelmingly I heard the Arizona desert call out in approval of my presence.

Jerome, Arizona holds a permanent reservation in my heart and mind, however any visitor will feel an undeniable spiritual connection to this hidden gem.

The Ultimate Tourist Trap

As a family, one of our favourite places to go on vacations was Cancun, Mexico, which we visited four times. I have been back twice since that last family vacation and has it ever changed.

The first time we went to Cancun was over New Year’s week in 1996/97. I was 14 years old and it was my first time to an all-inclusive resort. I remember that I only left the resort one night with it was my oldest sister, who was 18, and a group of people around her age that she had met earlier that week. We jumped on a bus packed shoulder to shoulder, and headed toward the club district with our “travellers” (drinks for the bus ride).

The bar we went to that night was Dady Rock; a pretty well known place in the heart of the club district. I could barely move through the sea of tourists. This was a time when the only locals in the bars were the staff. We had an amazing night, some drinks and some laughs and headed back to the hotel around three or four A.M. This was my first time really partying and I loved it.

Over the next four years, we went back three more times and the partying just got more wild each time. Cancun was a safe, exciting place for tourists to just let go.

Fast forward to my most recent visit in 2011, which was a sales incentive trip, consisting of approximately 30 people. Only a couple of us had been to Cancun before and knew what we were in for. On my prior trip, I had noticed some shady police activity, and questionable practices of the staff in the clubs but shrugged it off. This trip was to be a major eye opener.

The first night that we went out it was very apparent how the area had changed. While walking from the bus stop to the club, we noticed a group of seemingly very unsuspicious young tourists handcuffed in the back of a police pickup truck. My co-worker and I were offered drugs and prostitutes more than a dozen times in the three-minute walk and it didn’t end there.

Once in the club, the most dangerous thing you could do was go to the bathroom. That’s right. Each time I went, a guy at the door would rudely cut me off. He would ask me if I wanted to buy cocaine, and each time I said “NO.” He would then follow me into the bathroom and offer it again while standing beside me as I did my business. Once again, I would dismiss his offer.

After a couple of hours of that garbage we decided to leave. We walked back to our hotel, this time making sure not to look anyone in the eye. During that walk, we began to put the pieces together about how Cancun works these days, recalling horror stories that we had heard from friends, and through our own observations.

We came up with how we believe the trap works.

Everyone knows that the Cartels run Mexico and that many of the police are on their payroll. But the intricacies are quite clever.

Bouncers let in drug dealers to attempt to sell you the drugs. If a dealer is successful, he’ll give you space to think that you’ve gotten away with it. The bouncers are then tipped off by the dealers and bust you. You have two options at this point; leave with, or without the drugs. If you leave without the drugs, they go back to the dealers and they repeat the cycle and split the cash. Should you be able to leave with the drugs, chances are, police will stop you once you exit the building. The police will then confiscate the drugs, and what they do with them at this point is anyone’s guess. However, this should be the last of your worries. At this point you once again have two options; give up whatever amount of money they are extorting from you, or go for a ride to the police station, where you’ll still have to pay them. This happens once they are done with their strip search in a room full of other police officers and whomever they decide to invite in. You will leave the station feeling degraded and extremely embarrassed, which is something you should never experience when away on vacation.

I have since been asked by some friends to go back to Cancun, and my answer to them was, “I hear Jamaica and Cuba are both nice this time of year.”