Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent

What an intruiging human being. Jeremiah Tower, a food innovator, pioneer of the Great American Cuisine. He grew up alone. His affluent parents neglected him. In one striking moment at age 6, he recalls feeling let down by them when after hours and hours away, he found them in the hotel bar drinking and schmoozing. It was a moment he closed his heart off and decided to never put his faith in other people. But those moments of neglect allowed him to discover food. The innumerable fancy dishes with french names. Food became the balm that soothed his wounded heart. Food became his companion. And as his parents moved from country to country as globe hopping gypsies, his palate was allowed to develop. After college, he got his first cooking job, working alongside Alice Waters at Chez Panisse. It was there he discovered the power and awe of his own brilliance and creativity. And, quite possibly, his own darker side.
He became such an icon because he wasn’t afraid to break the mold. He was a handsome, charming, magnetic individual, and he shone. But an upbringing such as his must obviously come with deep psychological issues.
This documentary, while produced by, and featuring interviews from Tony Bourdain, feels much like an episode of any of Bourdain’s shows. In the beginning interviewees reflect on a time when Jeremiah simply dropped off the map and no one had heard from him. His first line, an audio overlay as we see him, an old man, walking among deserted ruins somewhere in Mexico, “I have to stay away from human beings, because somehow, I am not one…”

Roadrunner: A Film about Anthony Bourdain

I think everyone knows how highly I hold Tony. This was an exercise in wiping tears, dabbing nose, clearing throat. Wiping tears, dabbing nose, clearing throat. Wiping tears, dabbing nose, clearing throat…
Honestly, this was not information I was unfamiliar with, as I’m sure the film wanted it to be. What? Tony was a PERSON?! But this, I already knew. I have followed him for decades and knew how to read between the scenes.
What got me, were the candid moments. The moments that took a well put together room, and added the dust and the dirt to the corners.
And yes, the moment Eric Ripert’s face came on screen, first, painfully looking off screen, I broke. The way an egg does. The way you tap tap tap it on the counter top, til finally it cracks. How Eric must have felt that morning… expecting routine breakfast with his best friend, and then being the one to find him…
I went for a second beer. The woman apologized for such a slow pour. I waved her off, “I am tearing up, I need a break from the movie…” silently cursing her for making me miss minutes of his life…
And perhaps two beers directly after work on an empty stomach wasn’t the brightest idea. But I adored this man. This was the premier showing and I wasn’t going to miss it. This man awkwardly stumbled through life, and when his foot hit the ground, he took you with him through the world. He was, as his producer said, tall, handsome, and incredibly geeky. He geeked about what he felt strongly about, and that’s why he was so well loved. Thats why I ran, to get a seat, because the theater was full. He touched people. He showed us the world through his eyes. They showed the pivital moment, that I remember, in which Tony wants to help. He buys out a womans food cart stock and gives it to the hungry children just outside of camera shot. And it becomes chaos. There was no way he was going to be able to feed the mouths of the hungry. And a little piece of him changed in that moment. It was no longer just about food. It became about opening our eyes to the world. And we followed him, because he so genuinely cared. “Do you feel unfortable?” a man who has lost both his arm and his leg asks. The sole bread winner and provider of his family. After a thoughtful pause, Tony responds, “no. I think I owe it to the world to show this.”

Feminists: What were they Thinking?

In middle school I took a Home Ec class. I don’t recall if grades really mattered much in middle school, or if I even did well. It was considered an easy class, and both boys and girls took it. It’s easy to look back on it today and realize how stupid and outdated a class like that is. How sexist. I love cooking, but I remember it wasn’t until taking Home Ec that my brother started his career in cooking.

I live in an age where it’s easy to forget the struggles and inequality between men and women. To take for granted the ability to forget, even for a moment, and all the voices that brought us to this point.

We still live in an age built on and shaped around struggles. Gender, Race, Religion. And I can’t turn my eyes from it. I am a non-white female, in a largely white male society, and I fight everyday for my place.

But I am still priviledged, from the women in China criminalized for having abortions, to the women in Africa labeled Witches and hunted down and killed, to the women in Korea beaten by their husbands for not having dinner made on time. And these were also common occurrences here in America.

And while this film might be a little bit slow, it is brimming with the passion, and the pride, and the hurt of women who lived through much worse times than I will ever know. And fought for the equality that I can experience today.

Each Night I think I melt, absorbed and assimilated into the fibers of my sheets. Then sail away, like captain and ship, into the land of dreams. Where I run, and sing, and mostly cry. And when the morning comes, must tear my self from that warm embrace, painfully form my body anew, and face the Day..

Taking a Break – Day 3

Fur Sister

I sometimes look at my fur sister and wonder what she would be like if she were human. She would be slight of build, but taller than me. (It isn’t hard for anyone to be taller than me.) She would have long, wavy copper coloured hair. It would be blond on some areas, and deep red in others. She would have long copper coloured eye lashes, with dark makeup around the rims, like mine. She would be a head turner. She is. Everyone always commenting on how beautiful she is, and how wonderful her smile is.

She would be incredibly lazy. She would sleep in late, until dad comes up and smacks mom on the butt and says, “time to get up.” Depending on the day, she will either walk down the stairs one by one, or she’ll run down, full of life. But every evening, she’ll be back asleep, on the couch with her feet up once the tv comes on. And she’d go up to bed before everyone else.

She would love her treats, just like me. A little pastry with her coffee. Dessert after dinner. A cookie here or there. And if she looks hard enough at you, she might get lucky and you’ll share some of yours with her.

Despite her laziness, I think she’d probably be a sports player. Soccer, because dad is English. That, or line dancing… due to some weird obsession she has with dad’s foot every time his leg is crossed. (Although, Nanny also had a weird thing with his foot every time his leg was crossed too. Strange…) She also loves to chase a ball though. She’s not really great at catching, so, maybe soccer is a good fit.

Generally, she would just love everything about being outside. Making snow angels in the Winter, swimming at the beach in the Summer, laying in the grass on a nice day.

And somehow, despite being so full of life, she would also be incredibly full of love. Her excitement every time family comes to visit would be overflowing. She wouldn’t be the sort of girl who gets weird when someone gives her a hug or says they love her. That is just the sort of thing that makes her the happiest.

Taking a Break – Day 2

It’s 9:00PM but I’m taking her for a walk. It’s the last walk she’ll take for a while, so we take our time. I let her sniff every stick and leaf. At this time, it’s not quite full dark, but the sun is past the horizon. It is quiet, save for my lone foot falls, her sniffing, and the wind through the trees. The trees reach up, way up to the sky, and drift back and forth in the wind. They don’t sing, or clap, just sort of hushhhh, as if telling the world to quiet now. A gentle shushing, soft, like calm waves brushing the sand.

It is quiet here, but the streets are labyrinthine. Twisting, and curving, and connecting, and ending. I let her decide the path though. She knows where she is going. I see a man. He is walking his own dog, some small yappy thing that doesn’t take time to acknowledge any sticks or leaves. His face is buried in his phone. He ironically, barks at his dog to behave as we pass each other.

There is a moment when I hear a rustle. More than a leaf blowing in the wind. I look over and through the trees I see a deer. We are both quiet as we notice each other. It reminds me of the scene in Stand by Me, when Gordie sits alone as the sun comes up. A deer pops out through the trees and they have a moment as they watch each other. I honestly still don’t know the significance of that scene, but that is what this moment feels like. A human and a deer, having a moment in the dim light of day.

I see the same man with his small yappy dog approaching. His face is still buried in his phone. They pass.

When I was younger, every May we would drive way, way out, out to the end of the road. So far I would always fall asleep before we got there. And then we would hike even further than the cars could go, to reach a place at the end of the world. Ocean, and beach, and trees, and fields. We would camp there, in rustic cabins. No sound of traffic, or pollution. I remember, in the morning, the sound of crows, as we rose with the morning sun.

There is that man again. For the third time he approaches my direction, and I am beginning to think he is buried so deep in his phone he has no idea where he is going, or this is a clone and I am in some sort of strange alternate universe. I side eye him as he passes. He and dog randomly turn and descend into the trees down some dark, dubious trail.

It begins to get darker. The only light, garden lights, and lights in the windows of homes, kitchens and living rooms as people settle into the night. I can smell the trees. It is quiet and I know I could easily vanish. I hear the theme from the Pink Panther drift out from my pocket. Another irony, having just finished an episode of a crime mystery, solved by an awkward and unusual individual. It is mother, she is afraid I have vanished. We are close though. Fur sister grabs her leash and begins taking herself down the street. Mother walks to the end of the driveway, barely visible, but Fur sister knows. She runs the rest of the way home, always the most exciting reunion, as though it has been years, and not simply some 30 minutes.

Taking a Break – Day 1

Per the usual, woke up this morning, found myself spooning my precious cat, and for an instant was unsure of where I was. Then I heard my dad downstairs. I could hear the hum of the microwave as he warmed milk, and the weird brrrr of the coffee machine as it sputtered out coffee. A few minutes later I hear him slowly padding up the stairs, a few of them creaking as he passed. I hear him enter my room and the soft thump as he sets a mug of hot coffee on my nightstand. Without opening my eyes, I say thank you.

This is the morning here. Coffee, sometimes jumping into bed with mom and having my feet washed by my fur sister, getting dressed, then driving into town for more coffee.

Its Saturday, and though not huge, we decide to check out the Saturday Market. A total of one street block, two foot traffic lanes wide. The town has dropped precautions and full faces are displayed proudly. Those choosing to maintain safety still sport their cute and personalized masks, …hanging just below their noses. Walking the streets like times before is surreal, but it would seem that after a year of being mandated to keep six feet apart people no longer seem to remember personal space politeness.

Pops and I decide to walk back home from town. A 5 mile trek through streets and trees. Normally nothing to sweat about, other than the million degree blazing sun. Wrong foot attire strikes with a vengeance once the commitment has been made. Dad says that we can call mom to pick us up at any time. I raise the Korean Fighting fist and say, “no! Rose Garden right?” (In reference to the time I powered through a leisurely, horrible walk, in which I threw my hip out, to make it to the damned Rose Gardens. …and then, of course, I had to walk back home…) By the time we make it home I am pretty sure my feet are going to explode from massive blisterization.

I take a shower, and then crawl in for a nap. I think its the first nap I have unapologetically taken in months. Not burdened by guilt that I could be spending my time more productively.

Dream for my Birth Mother

I close my eyes and I see her. She’s so crystal clear, I almost reach out to touch her.

I dream that she is as elaborate a storyteller as I am. So when people ask, I might say I get it from her. And when that first book gets accepted I can dedicate it to her.

I dream that she is beautiful. Not the immediately obvious beauty. The sort of beauty that shines through to the right sort of people. And graceful. And people would gasp when she walks by. I know that that isn’t a gene I inherited, but it is what I dream for her.

I dream that she has long, full locks of black hair, and is the sort of woman who might do anything she pleases with it. And if she ever saw me she’d say, “you have my hair,” with a smile, and I might learn to love it yet.

I dream she has long, beautiful, delicate fingers, and anything she touches, with a little work, turns to gold. And perhaps her favorite things to do are make music, and write stories. Bedtime stories for the family I hope she has.

And though I know I am the product of an affair, I would not hate her. I am old enough yet to know the power of love. Its blinding intoxication. Because I know in the end she loves me still.

And I dream that when she first saw me she brushed a lock of hair behind her ears, and reached to me with those beautiful hands, and as she told me stories, I gazed back at that beautiful face and saw someone I’d see each time I closed my eyes and dreamed.

High School Monologue

I guess we both knew this day would come. There was no point in trying to stop it. And now I look around this huge house that you built 30 years ago for us, and I can’t help feeling alone. I admit that 62 years together is a long time and well… well I’m disappointed to see that this is where it ends.

What am I going to do with that old raggedy chair you always sat in? You would never let me throw it away or fix it. And now it’s just sitting there in the middle of the room with no one to sit in it… and you know it doesn’t even match anything!

And I never got to tell you, but that cup you always drank your Sunday coffee in… Well, I accidentally dropped it while washing it a few days ago. I guess I would have told you sooner or later… Tomorrow is Sunday after all.

Who am I going to watch movies with? I mean… I know you never really liked sitting with me for that long and staring at a television screen. You always fell asleep before the beginning credits were over. I suppose when I really think about it, I was watching the movies alone anyway… But you were with me at least.

Eheh… From here I can hear that leaky faucet. It’s been leaking for two years now. I suppose you won’t be fixing it like you said you would. I remember when I couldn’t stand to hear the sound of water dripping into the sink. You promised me you would “fix it tomorrow” for two years. And frankly, you and I both know I don’t know how to fix things. I don’t even know what a philip’s head is, or whatever it’s called is.

Believe it or not, but I haven’t even thought of how I am going to tell our kids. You were always the one to think of things to say. They adored you too. What should I do? Should I just call them up and tell them? Should I call them up and make conversation and then just… slip it to them? Oh, I just can’t think without you here!

There are so many things I know I should have said before you left, but then I guess there always are. You and I shared a long journey together and now I must start one of my own. It’s going to be pretty hard getting used to this old house alone. Maybe I’ll have the kids come visit me more often. I’d really like that… Just look at this picture of us… Those were the days when we were young, but we can’t go back. If I could just say one thing though… it’d be that… I’m really going to miss you.

Dear Me of 2005

It took me a little longer to find this letter. Like 16 years, but I finally did. I successfully graduated high school. I even graduated college, thought it was a struggle. Advice: Don’t do what people expect you to do. Failing will only slow you down. And here’s the truth, I miss the ocean every day.

I’ll describe myself because I still don’t keep a diary. Right now, my addictions are Beer, Icecream, and Pie. Especially Beer Floats, and Pie Milkshakes. I loved dyeing my hair this deep burgundy colour, and wearing dark purple contacts. But when I turned 34, I stopped. I still listen to Metallica, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Stones. On and on. I still have all those jackets, cuz I stopped growing a long time ago. And I still don’t wear them. I wear a lot of converse, and leather ankle boots. I stopped painting my nails years ago. Now it’s glue ons. Still liking guys, but have had enough heartbreak that I have now been comfortably single for near half a decade.

Kendra and I are still friends, but our souls have since travelled different roads. She is now engaged and has bought a house. I bounce from apartment to apartment with my two cats, and yes, two tortoises. You probably never really thought you’d have tortoises. They’re pretty great though.

Since graduating from high school life has been tough. I was finally diagnosed with depression and graduating from college became a struggle. But I currently work in a psych unit, and you were right; even though life seems bad, there are people whose lives are worse.

At age 30, I had a midlife crisis. I know, “30” isn’t midlife, but it happened. Everything got confusing, and I became extremely emotionally troubled, and I lost sight of who I am. I don’t know if I got over it, but I do think I have become who I am meant to be. I am unapologetically Me. And through all the struggles, you will get here. You never give up. It took until now to realize, but: Love your parents, they have given you everything and more. Love the boys you are with, because all the heartbreak will build you up stronger. And believe in yourself, because you are smart, and thoughtful, and caring. You are incredible without having to announce it to the world. Try not to let others make you feel like less. Because people will do that. They will try to bring you down to feel better about themselves.

Keep watching Korean Dramas, they become huge.

Keep writing, even when it feels hard, because it is how you relate to the world.

And keep being curious, funny to say, but you actually do like learning.

And yes, my handwriting has gotten worse. I continue to write with pen and paper because believe it or not, but phones have become smart. They do everything. And Robots have taken over the world.

Dear Me of 2009(ish)

Where does one begin when writing to their future self? Right now it is 2005 and I will be graduating in a matter of weeks. At this moment I actually feel good about it. I am ready to move on. I’m sure though, that you felt sadness only a few years ago. I hope that now you only miss the ocean.

Next I suppose, I should describe myself to paint a picture of how much you’ve changed, because I know how you refuse to keep a diary anymore. Right now my addictions are gum and chapstick. I’m going through a phase of dying my hair red and letting it fade to blonde… I listen to a lot of old and metal music. Metallica, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Stones. On and on. I still have a strange jacket obsession, yet never wear them. I wear jeans and as of this year actually started wearing sneakers instead of my boots all the time. My nails are the base of my creativity. Um… still liking guys and making friends with girls who steal those guys.

Speaking of friends, Kendra and I are soul sisters. We are how many miles away from each other and still are running down parallel paths. At the moment we’re both Samurai. (I hope she isn’t still going out with Uriah.) What else?

Well, I suppose I could say that this year really made me realize something important. That even though your life may be bad, to the point where you think you’re at your very lowest, there are always people whose lives are worse. Hopefully someday more people will come to realize that by the time you read this again.

I can’t really think of what else I might need to tell myself.

“It’s only a game,” “There are plenty of other fish in the sea,” “All you need is love,” “Don’t strive for conformity,” “110% is more than enough,” “They can’t tell,” “Guys really don’t understand,” and “It’s all a matter of opinion and theirs doesn’t count.”

I guess this is all really just common sense and I can only assume that that grows with age. I should hope. And I should hope that by then you have fully realized that all the Asians you see have paid a lot of money to look the way they do. So just remember, you look great and will only get better looking for about 20 more years! And remember also that your heart does effect what you see. That guy whom you love to look at… you may not, given enough time. It only takes one little action to change the way you see someone. Someone who makes you feel bad about yourself isn’t someone you want to be with. And as I said before, I can really only hope that you have already come to realize this.

Here’s one, I have a problem with (now) so my advice is remember this one well, – No One is worth compromising your identity for. Your identity is the base of your existence and without that then who are you? Be yourself and don’t be afraid of that.

I feel as though I am talking too much about things to remember. Really, I wrote this to account for how much I have changed in 4 years.

When Tony committed suicide I remember a lot of people were shocked. They were shocked because he was “living the dream.” He got to travel the world and eat food. But the truth is, he wasn’t living a dream. Tony had a rough childhood. He became a delinquent. Somehow food saved him. Tony was an incredibly smart and passionate man. He got a foot in the door with Travel Channel and was able to begin doing what he cared about. Traveling the world and bringing awareness to the struggles most people don’t want to acknowledge. But through all his different shows, you can see him struggle. With Travel Channel he wasn’t given enough freedom to do what he wanted. He had a lot of different shows on their network, perhaps trying over and over to get it right. But I don’t think they probably wanted to see world struggle. They wanted to see bright colours, and food. When he finally moved on to CNN, you could actually feel a change in him. Finally, this was where he could really breathe. He was able to travel the world and show and talk about what really mattered to him. The politics and the struggles of the world. And if you really think about it, why wouldn’t he begin suffering depression. Probably simmering since childhood. Now there ten fold. How can one man power travel the world, seeing the struggle and despair and not feel powerless. And then come home to a nation actively destroying itself under the leadership of a narcissistic moron. He engulfed himself in tragedy. So, on June 8th 2018, when I woke up to a text telling me he had committed suicide, after the shock, and the pain, the soul crushing pain, I understood. He wasn’t “living the dream.” He was single handedly trying to save the world.

(This, of course, is just my speculation.)

Heres a trailer for the upcoming documentary about him.

Roadrunner: A Film about Anthony Bourdain