Anthony Bourdain and Gonzo

anthony bourdain

There are times in our lives where everything going on feels like one big synthesis of cohesive thought.

During college I experienced this while exploring the writings of Hunter S. Thompson, and in a similar comparison, his contemporary in Anthony Bourdain. Thompson brought us gonzo, a brazen style of interpreting the world. His words on the page were gritty and brutal, peeling back the wallpaper of an often over privileged world he dipped his toes into. Bourdain was much of the same. And I fell on to both of their works at the same time. It pains me to write about Bourdain in a past tense. Bourdain should be present. His work, from his books, to his shows to his op-eds… they will outlive him with the same realness that Thompson’s stories do. We’ll always see our society puffing out its chest to show off the good it has done, but cut open the belly and the gizzards and rot will splatter out onto the table. They are there the entire time, they just need to be exposed. And Bourdain performed that in his essays, his books, his television and his food, with the exactness of a surgeon and the wit of a mathematician.

Bourdain talked about food and its bleed into cultures and society with a twin tone to Thompson’s exploration on sports. They both took digs at the opulence and garish leanings of the privileged world. To me, Bourdain stuck his neck out more for the marginalized. He sang praises about the miracle of the beaten and downtrodden marched on. In any underbelly and seemingly gutter of society, Bourdain could see the unbreakable human spirit. He went further than going inside the workings of a kitchen, and sometimes this kitchen wasn’t to a confined place. It was in the open aired backcountry, or in a small mud and stick hut. But the stories he gleaned from the experiences held a spiritual connectivity, to hardship, to strife, to overcoming and continuing on. To the world of those working with champagne problems, Bourdain’s work fleshed out a misunderstood and ill-reported perspective. He demonstrated there was no sense in fearing the unknown, but to go ahead and take a bite, sit down and talk about the problems. Food, whether he noshed on it at a three-star Michelin or in a shack with a dirt floor, always tasted delicious if it was prepared by people who bore their soul in creating the dish. Some created it out of the need for survival, and others created it to temper their creative thirst.

Bourdain isn’t the ‘bad-boy’ we perceived him as. Sure, he was equipped with a tough exterior and penchant for rough liquor and chain smoking. But his death, his suicide, pointed out the vulnerabilities and infallibility we all suffer through as humans. His death is the kind where you stop and think, if it could be him, it could be me. It could be my best friend. It could be my aunt, my neighbor, my bully.

There’s unfortunately a myriad of harmful information about mental health still been slung about in today’s conversations, even if there is a conversation. At the core of it, with suicide rates on the rise in nearly every state in the country, I think what we need to take away is how we are treating others. When acting out as a child, my dad would always tell me, it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice. Over the past few days, many friends and acquaintances have posted across their social media to reach out to them if you need help or to talk. I know this isn’t the case. You also need to actively do the reaching out. Check on all of your friends, your family. What the hurt may want is to have a real substantive conversation, but their mind and heart may be so plagued that they can’t muster the strength to reach out. Depression isn’t what the stock photo websites try to sell to you, it’s not always the sad looking woman with a weathered face, clutching a wall and looking downward. Sometimes it looks like Chester Bennington, who just hours before had been seemingly thriving playing board games with his family, or Kate Spade, who had been apparently talking about her excitement over an upcoming trip. 

Bourdain is missed. Just like the lives of all those who have taken their lives. In the wake of his death I’ve seen some pretty incredible stories of people, especially those in marginalized communities, thank him for shedding a light on their struggles, their food and their importance to our society. Be like Bourdain and be the one to reach out and uplift.

suicide prevention lifeline

Spontaneous Travel Version 2015

If you’re familiar with my life, which maybe you are, maybe you aren’t, you would know last year I took a six-week trip to Italy on a whim. It ended up being one, if not the best, experience of my life. Earlier this year I took a semi-spontaneous trip to visit my brother again in Phoenix, but the travel bug bites, and it bites me exceptionally hard.

Now, this year I’m not as fortunate to be able to take a big trip like that due to several factors. However, one of my best friends Alex had just moved down to Washington D.C. She’s there alone for a few weeks before her boyfriend moves down for graduate school, so she’s been a bit lonely. About two weeks ago the idea popped into my head to just go. I booked my flights and flew there on Monday, July 13. I returned early yesterday, the 16th. We fit a lot into 3 days and it was my first time to visit the capital.

After picking me up from the airport, we stopped quick at her apartment to change and freshen up and walked down to the bus station. The bus ride was a quick ten minute ride to the Pentagon metro station (not to be confused with the Pentagon City station -as she explained). Even during rush hour times the trains never seemed full. As a New Yorker who has commuted on multiple occasions I was astonished that people didn’t need to pack in like sardines. All the trains did seem a bit outdated, there was no ticker overhead announcing what stop was next or a light-up map either. So you do need to pay attention to the stops. I have to wonder what is at the Foggy Bottom stop. Also, the regular fair cards (not the Smartrip cards) don’t tell you how much is left on your balance. And the metro prices on how far you are going so you pay for how many stops rather than just to use.

 

We took the metro right to the National Mall, which is under construction in places. We stopped in the Smithsonian Castle and then headed to the top two museums on our lists (she had been to both before, but they are a must!) I kept getting these names mixed up, but apparently everyone does. First we viewed the National Museum of American History, which had great pieces. The Smithsonian does a superb job of curating. One of my favorite Periscope users is an archaeologist who always talked about being ‘edutained,’ and I certainly felt edutained walking out. This museum has such a wide-range collection, from George Washington’s swords to First Ladies gowns, a slab of the Berlin Wall, and different presidential mementos. There’s definitely an embarrassing video of me at the presidential podium giving John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech. That won’t be shared here, but look for the picture.

The next museum was the Museum of Natural History. Another amazing museum. They have Harry Winston’s Hope Diamond, an Ancient Egypt exhibit and an oceans exhibit among many others. The only exhibit I wasn’t crazy for was the taxidermy animals. I especially enjoyed the Bollywood and African exhibits. It pushes the boundaries of what you thought you knew.

We rounded out the first day with a visit to the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. There are no photos allowed in the Rotunda which is for the health of the documents. It was an amazing experience to be in the same room as the most important documents in US history. The Founding Fathers were so intelligent in understanding that times change and so do people’s mindsets. What may have not been okay twenty years ago, is commonplace today, and I think we all need to realize that our freedom is in place to protect everyone’s ideals.

The next day we strapped on comfortable shoes and walked the National Mall, visiting almost all of the monuments, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr., FDR, World War II, and several others. We also stopped to visit the White House, which looks so different in person. While these monuments evoked a sense of reflection and humbleness in me I couldn’t help but think about what could be next.

The third day we took it easy and enjoyed the sweet peacefulness of her town and doing things we normally did when we lived together in college (i.e.: gossip, watch weird/bad movies, and eat food).

There are plenty of things I still want to do in D.C., like visit many of the other Smithsonian museums, and other museums like the Spy Museum, the Newseum, and the Writers Museum. I would also love to visit the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, the Capitol, the Ford Theatre and Arlington National Cemetery. D.C. is one of those places where you can always return to something new, and it is something I look forward to when visiting Alex down there over the next few years.

 

Heads Up! It’s NaNoWriMo Time Again!

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So, last year you may remember me talking about participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). To recap, NaNoWriMo is a month where you sit down and squeeze out a minimum 50,000 words. It’s grueling but the end is so rewarding. Last year I ‘won’ NaNo. But, I haven’t touched what I wrote since then. So this time around I am rewriting what I wrote and hoping to add on to it. I’m changing the point of view on my story.

 

I am also going to start writing my graphic novel. I better not run out of coffee for that month.

Chapter X

As you can see I have been quiet on here the past couple of weeks. There just doesn’t seem much to discuss.

But something did come up.

I started a new job in NYC yesterday. I really like it, and it was so unexpected. My office is right by Bryant Park so it is nice to eat lunch there. Today they had Broadway shows in the park, and I chowed down on my Nutella sandwich while listening to some very talented performers belt out tunes from Les Miserables, Chicago, Atomic, and Pippin. Les Miserables is one of my favorite shows and it was such a nice midday treat.

I am struggling with the commute. It is expensive for me. This weekend I will set aside some time to plan out a better budget than I have now.

Either way it is nice to be a part of the rhythm of New York City.

I won NaNo!

All November I had been blathering on about NaNoWriMo, so if you’re reading this you’re likely to know the gist of it as well.

I validated my novel around 6 p.m. local time on November 30, 2013. NaNo was one of the most thrilling, stressful, and fulfilling ventures I have ever undertaken.

Some further obstacles I faced while writing to reach the 50,000 minimum were going away for a week in November to Phoenix. It was a whole week of not writing, not thinking about the story, and alas, when I came back home just a few days shy of Thanksgiving I had no motivation to write/ ideas to propel my story. I was at about 35k for the word amount around Thanksgiving, and there was such a crunch to reach the deadline. It was exhilarating.

Since it has been almost a month since the end of NaNo, I have been quite busy. I started a new job and have been training and trying to balance everything else in my life with it, so I haven’t spent any time writing or editing. I hope to give myself some extra time and come January pick it up again. I would love to start trying to get a book deal or self-publish in the spring time.

This past month has also been exhausting for the major fan in me. My beloved Doctor Who series had their 50th Anniversary special last month, and last night, on Christmas, I saw my Eleventh doctor depart from the show to welcome in the new Doctor played by Peter Capaldi. I will not get too into it but Matt Smith is my favorite Doctor, so it was very hard for me to watch him go. The sadness in his eyes as he said his last lines were incredibly tough and I definitely spent my Christmas night sobbing into my pillow and squeezing my cat. I will miss you incredibly so, Matt Smith.

Also, the new Sherlock season starts next month and we were graced with a mini episode. It definitely has me excited. I’m talking about the Sherlock series on the BBC. Gosh, I’m such an anglophile.

In addition I saw the movie Frozen last month and thought it was truly magical. I love the direction Disney went with it. The music was a glorious mix of classic Disney tunes and Broadway ballads.

I also went to an advanced screening of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug a few weeks ago. It was PHENOMENAL. Yes, the book purist will definitely have problems with it, but I love the story Peter Jackson has added to the classic book. I do not believe he tainted it.

So there we go, a big write-up right before the New Year.

I hope everyone has been having a lovely holiday season, a Merry Christmas, and will have a joyous, prosperous, and most importantly healthy New Year!!

 

NaNoWriMo!

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NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month] is changing my life. I expected it to be hard, exhausting, and consuming; and it has definitely lived up to those descriptions. But, for me, it is also cleansing and a journey of discovery. With a week under the belt I have over 21,000 words and my expected date of completion is November 19 currently.

 

On Thursday I churned out 6,000 words alone, my best to date. The task drained me and yesterday I reached a minimum. The important thing is that I wrote. And I am continuing to write.

The most interesting part is my personal interaction with the characters I’ve created. They surprise me. We have discussions and arguments about their lives. I can see a reflection of me in each of them, even the antagonist (which isn’t a person but more of the ideology of society).

‘Tortured writer,’ has a new meaning for me. It’s not just sitting at a desk, coffee or drink in hand barreling out words until one sheet of paper doesn’t become a makeshift basketball for the garbage. ‘Tortured writer’ is the emotional connection I have to my characters, to write their story with integrity, justice, continuity. For those I want to suffer, I make their suffering real, and with the hopes that the situation they are in garners the appropriate reaction of sympathy. If I’m off doing something else other than writing I’ll often have to stop to jot down a new idea or a phrase that really brings in the story to its crucial points.

The support of my friends has been fantastic. I’ve told them a bit about my story and they all have voiced their support that I can write this story. My family is a little more apprehensive, but I believe their concern is about the constant cries of back pain from me sitting at a chair all day (and night).

I can’t believe it has only been eight days in.

If I feel this much different, I wonder who I will be on December 1, when all the writing has stopped and hopefully I will have surpassed the 50,000 word minimum.

I’ll try and check in with my observations every week.

Experience

Today I was assigned to cover the court sentencing in the next county over. I was excited to go because a) It’s over an hour drive and I’ve never driven that far. B) This was a pretty big/interesting case.

Now, I can’t really say I’ve covered a court case. I’ve tried. I tried my last semester in New Paltz with the case of the student hostage situation. The defendant didn’t show up to court.

So that flopped.

Well, something similar happened today. The case was adjourned. But, I did learn a lot and am interested more in court proceedings. It’s very spectacle-like. I put out a message to see if I can find books about court reporting. I want to learn. (And never stop!)

Exhilarating

I just covered my first press conference ever.

This is so big for me.

It was exhilarating.

It was a county press conference unveiling the new taxi on patrol extension to the neighborhood watch program. Even the major news networks were there. I was so nervous but I didn’t want to come off as someone who was new at it so I just went with the flow, and I don’t think I did a bang-up job.

So proud of myself! Almost like the universe was giving me a belated birthday present. How sweet!

 

East Side Access!

Here I am inside the East Side Access Tunnel, Manhattan side of the project.

 

The East Side Access Tunnel trip was incredibly fascinating and I learned so much.  To reiterate, the East Side Access is a project connecting the LIRR to Grand Central Station.  The LIRR only goes to Penn Station, which leaves many commuters with a long journey to work.  Creating this project by adding three new tracks that will use the 63rd street tunnel, which was built in the late 60s and 70s and nicknamed the ‘tunnel to nowhere,’ even though it will be serving this project.  The F train uses the two upper tracks of the tunnel, while the lower two tracks have been unused.  They will be used by the East Side Access trains once this project is completed.

We first toured the Queens side, which is less complete.  The Queens side is more complicated then the Manhattan side because they water table is only 10 feet below ground, which Manhattan is solid rock.  They are working on finishing excavating the tunnels and then connecting them in the break section.  We didn’t get a chance to see an actual tunnel boring machine (TBM) since our tour was running late.  The TBM’s are apparently ginormous and its job is to excavate a circular cross-section.  The excavation is then lined with gigantic concrete slabs, which serve as the basis of the tunnel.  There’s about 2,400 workers and the project has been in progress for 10 years.  Completion is not expected until 2019, mostly due to financial and budgeting problems.  There has only been 1 death in

The top three tunnels are ‘revenue,’ which means passenger trains will be using those, and the fourth one, hard to see, but it’s on the bottom moves trains to their needed locations.’

 

When we went to the Manhattan side, my best comparison is to an alien planet.  It’s super dark and dusty, and completely muddy.  The temporary lights only illuminate sections being worked on, and in every direction you can see the eerie glow of them, and some huge machine tearing through dirt, or drilling, or something else that needs to be done.

Here’s a tunnel being worked on, I believed this one leads down to a would-be subway platform.

Here’s a tunnel being worked on, I believed this one leads down to a would-be subway platform.

 

 

Doesn’t this look so eerie? Wish I brought my better camera to capture its’ craziness.

 

I wish I brought my better D-SLR camera to snag better quality shots but I was afraid of it getting damaged or dirty, I did not know what to expect.  When we were in the Manhattan tunnels, we were not allowed to use flash for two reasons: 1. The air was so dusty. 2. A camera flash might confuse the workers of a blast, which can be very dangerous to them.

One of my favorite parts was returning to the surface after the Manhattan trip. I had forgotten after we had taken the subway from Queens to Grand Central that we entered the site from a specialized personnel door in the terminal.  To think that this other planet of construction was just a few hundred feet from the elegant Grand Central station was just… unbelievable.  It definitely contributed to the feeling of being on another planet.

The workers are also all over the world and are highly specialized and many of the machines used are also from all parts of the world, mainly Germany.  It was also good for me to see four female workers, all engineers, and despite the dirty workplace, they looked great.

The East Side Access Tunnel project was definitely a once in a lifetime experience for me.  It is currently the biggest kind of it’s project in North America, and to witness the creation of something that will serve thousands of tri-state area residents and travelers is an awesome feeling.

This is an artists’ rendering of what the terminal and platform addition sto Grand Central will look like.