Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Anthony Bourdain is My Hero

Being from New Jersey is much much different from being from somewhere else.  Outside of the well-entrenched stereotypes exhibited by the "reality" shows Jersey Shore (which I have written about before) and Real Housewives of New Jersey and the dramatic series The Sopranos, not much is known.  And while they have their accuracies, they don't tell the full story of the state.

He comes really super close.

Enter Anthony Bourdain, host of the show No Reservations on the Travel Channel.  Bourdain is himself a Jersey boy (from Leonia, home of a massive Japanese supermarket featured on the show) who achieved something that most everyone from Jersey has aspired to or at least entertained: making it big in New York.  (The exception are those people from the Philly area, but that's another story.)

What those folks near Philly can aspire to.

There exists an unmistakable edge that Bourdain has, however, that really distinguishes him from virtually every other chef or travel guide on a television.  He's not happy go lucky.  Innocence for him probably ceased once could start shaving.  He's rough and doesn't give a damn, and yet still receptive and open to various new and wacky things.  That edge is what makes him popular.  He's a breath of fresh air, tinged with a few drags of a cigarette.

Plus, he's just damned good-looking too.

Part of what I think that edge is the whole "being from Jersey" mentality.  There's always a chip on your shoulder.  You're somehow always viewed as second class, especially from those hoity-toity folks who reside on that island known as Manhattan.  Hell, even people from other states who probably matter as much as the vintage of cornmeal processed in their state have that attitude. (Know your place, Nebraska.)  And even when you make it big, such as being a successful chef, author, travel show host, and speaker like Bourdain, you've still got that edge that's a result of having always to compete.

Look!  He even likes the Ramones!

I can empathize.  I grew up in New Jersey, looking towards the city as the Promised Land.  I went to UMBC in the suburbs of Baltimore, MD, which sat in the shadows of UMCP, located near the power environs of Washington DC.  For most of my life, it hasn't been about where I am but instead looking to the place that casts shadows upon me.  You're continually looking up.

Not to say that's it's a horrible thing, mind you.  It seems to worked out well for Bourdain.  He's parlayed the crick in his neck and grimace in his eyes from looking up at the skyscrapers and big dreams in New York to something that's made him a multi-faceted superstar.  I will wager that someone like Anthony Bourdain would most certainly not have come from anywhere else but New Jersey.  While other patriarchal relationships exist all around the United States and the world, there's a uniqueness of the way it's conducted in New Jersey that makes it distinctive.  And it's that uniqueness that's earned Bourdain the admiration of thousands of fans and other people like me, who really wish they could parlay that sort of experience into a multimedia celebrity instead of really terse quotes that don't earn you invites to parties.

No comments: