Before I tell you about my experience meeting Anthony Bourdain, I have to back up a bit.
It’s been quite the weekend. On Saturday we went to the city with some friends and stayed out way too late eating and drinking and getting soaked in the rain. The next day we awoke to a call from the Grandparents, alerting us that Isobel was ready to go home, so we literally rolled out of bed and into some clothes and hit the road. That’s what the above photo is about. We had woken up maybe five minutes prior and were on our way to get our baby, miraculously un-hungover.
I feel it’s necessary to explain because normally we’d spend a day like this in our pajama bottoms, holed up in our house playing video games, only going out to bring back some taco truck. But this was no ordinary Sunday. It was the day we were going to see Anthony Bourdain. For him alone was I willing to wear pants.
Anthony Bourdain speaking in my quaint, agrarian town was Big News. We have a fancy new arts center and this was the first show to sell out almost immediately. It was so popular that they decided to simulcast the presentation to the theater next store and sold tickets to that show for fifteen bucks a pop. It filled up. We bought our tickets almost immediately, and even then I couldn’t get two seats right next to each other. We were close enough to each other and the stage for me to be happy, though.
Normally, even when a show sells out you can always spot a few empty seats in the audience. A few here or there, at least. Not in this case. It was packed with people as far as the eye could see. I also noticed that the vast majority of the audience was at least twice my age. This fact becomes important as the night goes on.
According to the rules of the house, we were strictly forbidden from taking photos during the performance. It’s in Anthony’s contract, so it was like he was personally asking us not to take pictures. It totally broke my balls to sit there and hear the one or two camera clicks go off during the show, because I was sitting next to a group of ushers and I didn’t want to pull out the giant camera in front of them. It’s weird, I have no problem flaunting authority if I believe that what they are saying is wrong. But make it an issue of manners, like saying it’s rude to take pictures, and I flounder. My personality strains under the weight of politeness. Commands suggested in the name of etiquette demand obedience, while commands given as actual commands beg to be flaunted. I was raised to value manners even as my natural impulses chafe beneath them.
I did sneak this one cell phone photo, however. Good breeding aside, I guess I am, at heart, kind of a jerk.
Anthony told some of the funniest stories from Medium Raw, including the time he was molested by Sandra Lee. The price of admission was worth it for that alone. The best part for me was when he talked about his likes and dislikes. His opinions resonated so deeply with conversations that (husband) Anthony and I had had before that I kept turning my head to look back whenever he agreed with us on something. But it wasn’t just that his opinions agreed with our own, it was that he agreed with why we felt that way that was amazing. If Anthony Bourdain was a preacher, then my husband and I were sitting in the choir.
He also talked a bit about Top Chef, and I could have listened to him speak about that all night. He says everything on that show is above the board, no matter how the producers want the drama to play out. He talked about travelling, Alice Waters (so funny), and about the important a role food plays in life in describing who we are and how we live, as people and as a society. This point is especially dear to me, because it is the common thread that draws me to reading not just Tony, but also Nigella Lawson and Laurie Colwin as well.
At the end of the speech he opened up the floor to some questions. The first question was hilarious: a no doubt important Local Matron of the Community, sitting front and center stands up and says, “You’re in Almond Country, Mr Bourdain! Tell us about your experiences with almonds!” to which Anthony replies, “Almonds? Um, I like them? Next question.”
Oh, Central Valley. You do not ever let me down.
Almost immediately someone asks about the issue of immigrants in kitchens. Husband Anthony and I, sitting seats apart from each other, cringe in unison. Let’s take these facts into consideration: the audience is, by far, older, wealthier, and whiter than the average citizen. Politically, my area ranges from socially and fiscally Conservative to Batshit Crazy Xenophobic Motherfuckers. And Anthony Bourdain is talking about the Tea Party. This could be bad. This could be very, very bad.
I don’t know if he was prepped about my area beforehand, or if he’s just used to disarming mobs of people with talk of barbecue and beer, but he did it. He said that people may disagree about the big issues, but we can come together over food. And he left it at that.
A few more questions pass when Husband suggests we get in line for the book signing. There are hundreds of people in our theater alone, and there’s another whole theater of people who will also want their books signed. We felt the need to get back to our baby, who was being graciously watched by our friends Angela and Justin. They didn’t have the next day off and of course we worried she was giving them a hard time. At the risk of missing more thrilling questions about almonds, we snuck out of the theater and took our place as eighth in line for the book signing.
As the theaters emptied the line became ridiculous. I tried to get pictures of how it wrapped around the entire building and nearly ended at the signing table, but from where I stood I couldn’t really capture the scope of it. People mobbed the signing area in anticipation. Gallo did not really do the best job in planning or setting up for this part because I don’t think they anticipated the sheer number (or enthusiasm) of people waiting for him. In the future, when you sell out a show for a major celebrity, perhaps you might want to think these things through. They somehow managed to cobble together a last-minute fix.
I really wanted to take a picture of Anthony myself, but I was too short to get anything but shots of the people ahead of us. When we reached the front of the line, a lady whisked the camera out of my hands and said that she had to take the picture of us together. She had no idea how to work my camera, of course, but rules are rules. I adjusted the settings on my camera for the widest margin of error and prayed like hell.
And then it was my turn. We were there. Face to face. Meeting Anthony Bourdain. We told him that we loved the presentation. He signed my book. I had a million questions and things I could say, but when I was right there, all I really wanted to do was say thank you. He looked at me. I said thank you. He smiled.
It was awesome.
The lady took the picture, and it’s the least flattering picture I could have possibly asked for. I had just spent the weekend indulging in fancy, fattening food in San Francisco, and the last time I looked so round and happy I was pregnant. Yikes. Whatever, though, this photo is amazing and I’m thinking about using it for our Christmas card. The best part is the creeper security dude in the back. He adds that special something.
Or maybe I’ll just send out this photo. It’s pretty great, too.