Months Before Death, Bourdain Talked to Me About Everything

Maria Bustillos spent hours with Anthony Bourdain in February
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2018 2:03 PM CDT
Updated Jul 22, 2018 7:07 AM CDT
Months Before Death, Bourdain Talked to Me About Everything
In this Aug. 8, 2007 file photo, Anthony Bourdain, host of the Travel Channel's "No Reservations," poses in a New York restaurant.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

When Maria Bustillos reached out to Anthony Bourdain's assistant to see if she could secure an interview with him, she got a quick reply: the following Friday, Feb. 16, worked. They were to meet at 3pm at an unfussy Manhattan bar called Coliseum. Bustillos assumed she'd get 15 minutes with him, and steeled herself for the "attempted psyche vacuuming" that she hoped to do in so brief a span. Instead, the two spent 2.5 hours together, "blabbing about everything under the sun." The transcript of their conversation ran 20,000 words, and she walked away knowing it would "take a long time to digest. How long? The answer is: forever." What follows in Popula is an edited version of their wide-ranging conversation, one so lengthy it may feel as if it takes somewhere near forever to read. Some highlights:

  • Mistakes are "the most important part of travel. The shit you didn't plan for, and being able to adapt and receive that information in a useful way instead of saying, like, 'Oh, goddamnit, they ran out of tickets at the Vatican!' ... and then sulk for the rest of the day."
  • "I'd entertained the notion that I'm working toward a goal, or a day, where I could sit on a Tuscan hilltop in a hammock with a big stack of books, but I understand now that ... I can't do that. I can do that for short periods of time. But I can't. I can't."
  • "The way I acquire things has really changed over the years; maybe that’s a function of age, and two marriages. I know very much what won’t make me happy. The perfect car will not make me happy. The perfect house will probably make me sad, and terrified."
  • "A house is a commitment, you know? You have to take care of it. ... And then you also have to consider who gets it after you're gone. ... When I acquire [a book] that I really love it’s difficult for me, because I think about … who does one pass this on to?"
  • "If you travel even a little bit you realize straightaway that you are insanely rich. Like anyone, what we call 'middle class,' you're insanely rich."
  • "To sit alone or with a few friends, half-drunk under a full moon, you just understand how lucky you are; it’s a story you can't tell. It’s a story you almost by definition, can’t share. I’ve learned in real time to look at those things and realize: I just had a really good moment."
  • "My theory of how [Harvey Weinstein] goes is ... he's brushing his teeth—he suddenly gets a massive f---ing stroke—he stumbles backwards into the bathtub, where he finds himself um, with his robe open feet sticking out of the tub, and in his last moments of consciousness as he scrolls through his contacts list trying to figure out who he can call, who will actually answer the phone. And he dies that way, knowing that no one will help him and that he is not looking his finest at time of death."
Read the full story for much more, including Bourdain's thoughts on a wave of recent politicians (Obama, Trump, Sanders, the Clintons) and Bustillos' poignant closing words about Bourdain's suicide. (More Longform stories.)

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