He travels. He writes. He swaggers. He hosts CNN’s “Parts Unknown” each Sunday. Most episodes I come away a little older, a little wiser then when I first picked up the remote. To that end, I see how Anthony has taught me 6 crucial life lessons.
#1 — Stay Curious – The world is vast, exciting and scary. Every episode of “Parts Unknown” whets my appetite for people, places and experience. What’s it like growing up in Vietnam? What do they eat for breakfast in Tokyo? How do Moroccans raise their children? How do Canadians go ice fishing? What’s it like taking an overnight train in Myanmar? How do they spend their days in Bahia, Brazil? Yes, I’m nosy.
#2 — Talk to People– One thing I love about Anthony Bourdain is he will sit around any table, no matter how humble, and ask questions of the locals – from olive farmers in Sicily to Jamaican fishermen to one of the richest men in Shanghai atop a penthouse. People love talking about their world and its always enlightening.
The show’s a kaleidoscope of race, gender, ethnicities, language, social class, and tribes. But the great thing is the more people and cultures shown, the more I realize we all have in common.
#3 — Food Unites – We all eat. And because of this, in every episode, Anthony ends up noshing and drinking (copiously) around a local table. And yes, some meals are more appetizing than others. Anthony had a dinner in Lyon, France done by Michelin chef Paul Bocuse that made my salivary glands almost dissolve.
Then there are other places like Madagascar or Tanzania where they procure food in more basic ways. Unfortunately for me, “Parts Unknown” doesn’t flinch when it comes to butchery of local chicken, goats and cows. I avert my eyes and remind myself not every culture has a meat section in the local supermarket.
#4 — Get Off the Beaten Path – In Miami, Anthony started the show on the wealthy gold coast of Florida. I started to roll my eyes. This can’t be all they’ll cover. I should’ve known better. The rest of the show was spent inland in West Miami — little Cuba, little Haiti, and a huge Afro-Caribbean community where music’s hot and the food’s hotter.
These streets are less glamorous, home to hotel waiters, busboys and chambermaids, but the people dance, eat and play dominos, usually outdoors. After awhile those huge skyscrapers on the beach start to fade.
#5 — Be Brave – Anthony will go anywhere, and I mean anywhere. And I’d follow him just about any place, except a few. The Congo comes to mind. There’s too much crushing poverty, men with machine guns and crocodiles. Life is cheap and unpredictable. This happens after too many wars, corrupt leadership and European colonization. And yes it helps to be male and have a camera crew and entourage, but Anthony still gets points for gutsiness, going to locales most of us wouldn’t visit on a bet.
#6 — Respect Other Cultures – I love that Bourdain goes into every country with an attitude of openness and learning. He’s always courteous, enthused and appreciative. And people respond to that. Recently he shot an episode in Tehran where his Iranian hosts couldn’t wait to have him taste their food, hear their music and see their culture up close, through their eyes. They wanted to be seen and understood in ways rarely shown on American television. Anthony provided that.
So what’s the takeaway? For me it’s that in the end — no matter where we sit on the globe — we’re more alike than different. We all love our children and get up most days and go to work. We all want to be happy and enjoy friends and family. We all laugh at silly animal videos.
I’m sorry Randy, but if Anthony Bourdain asked me to go globe-trotting tomorrow, we’d have a problem (except if it’s The Congo). In the meantime, I look forward to viewing each week not only for watching, but learning.
Thank you, Anthony. Call anytime.
Have you seen “Parts Unknown” on CNN? Do you have a show that teaches as well as entertains? (And yes, I also watch junk, but won’t go into that here). Comments are always welcome and if you’d like to receive posts by email, just write your address in the space above. Thank you!