What Does a Contortionist and a Chef Have in Common?
Updated: Nov 8, 2022
A letter by Tori Kubick
Dear Anthony Bourdain,
This is an ode to you, the zany boisterous adventurer who inspired me to travel the world… but more importantly to allow myself to write, something I have been doing a lot of lately.
And to aid in getting over my childhood fear, of being afraid to look like an idiot. Also, breaking the seal of my stubborn voice, not just the voice to write, but the integrity of my voice supporting me whilst performing on stage.
I love how crazy this mundane world can be when you take a deeper glance. How a chef can inspire a contortionist?! It is not about what you can or cannot execute in this lifetime, cause we all know I cannot literally indulge in a hefty menagerie of meals before I perform or practice. But it is about the composition. You appreciated the fine layers and juxtapositions of elements flowing in a dish, just as I search for the same in a show or an act. We want to incorporate water, fire, earth and wind in the things we bite, the things we spectate, and the things that touch and tickle us where and when we least expect it. It is about the connections and relationships we cultivate that spark us, even if just inflamed for brief pangs of time. Both of our art forms, are fleeting, they undergo rigorous trainings and aren’t timid to expose them selves to extreme conditions in order to be sculpted and diced into something indescribable. They are only present and alive before our eyes momentarily, before oxygen and time wash them away like the robust wave cleansing the shore.
Anyone can invoke and inspire anyone or anything...
I am not attempting to justify yours or anyone’s suicide. I am just taking a stab at it, by logically scheming various situations in my mind, because you appeared to be a like-minded person as of myself, and you truly inspired me.
Plus, it is literally impossible to reconcile with the ephemeral thoughts being promulgated and sketched across one’s conscious approaching their time of departure.
But… Maybe you felt hopeless.
Perhaps despite your household name, you more so identified with the wide range of refugees who were stuck in purgatory, in a completely foreign city. Unable to push forward, debilitated and prohibited them from educating themselves or even working. They were void of a window to examine the current world they were submerged in. They could merely exist.
Perhaps you purged so much passion within your densely vivacious lifespan. You never slacked off, you gave it your all, all the time. You tried everything under the sun without hesitation. You never hiccupped, you went right for the kill because you were undoubtedly passionate and full throttle. Passion is great, passion is life, but passion is also taxing and draining. Adrenaline pumps our blood and surges our creative outlets across mind boggling distances and treks. Maybe your adrenaline was finally exhausted of full speed, and decided it was time to subdue.
Maybe you wanted to go out while on top. You have been around the world hundreds of times. You have seen, heard, smelt, and tasted it all. You were touched and you were definitely inspired. Maybe you reached a level that you were so content and satisfied, that bringing things full circle on via your own terms, might not necessarily be a bad thing. I know there are religious and moral discrepancies. And more obviously we associate suicide as a sign of depression. But who knows, it could have been quite the opposite… You had successfully rebuked and sponged up all you could in this current lifetime, maybe you did not want to be greedy by taking even more, you personally knew it was time to move on.
I too have reached depths of the earth, that have spoken to me so deeply and swept me so faraway that I felt comfort in the disconnect with society, and a deeper connection with the earth. I felt so enlightened and unconquerable, that if I went right there and then I knew I would dissipate peacefully.
Some people may view this as selfish. You let down your family, your friends, and your vast audience of followers. But maybe you recognized that you were so deeply connected, that you inhibited the ability to listen and recognize that you were personally finished. You might have looked at the bigger picture, you may have longed to return to the earth. You were able to selflessly give in and not take any more from this earth, maybe this was your way of morbidly giving back.
Also, as you travel said, travel can be fun, but it also can break your heart. We have all had our heart rupture and torn open at least once terrestrially and locally... But I can imagine reliving this occurrence foreign and on a daily basis. Where the language spoken is absent of your mother tongue. You cannot even communicate and deliver the valid questions you require for closure and acceptance. Instead these daunting images monotonously haunt your conscious, which can be overbearing.
You always inspired me, and I am deeply saddened. However, I am thrilled that you have taught me that it is okay to explore and that inspiration has no label. But most importantly, “If I’m an advocate for anything. It’s to move as far as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, and move!”
Movement therapy is beneficial in infinite ways. Even though I never had the opportunity to meet you in this lifetime, hey you might have not even liked who I am… (as I am extremely guilty for devouring some smashing homemade pumpkin spice muffins made by my mother… but to be fair, this was WAY before the hipsters hijacked the pumpkin spice scene and exploited it) … but nonetheless … movement therapy is a ritual that guides and shapes my everyday life trajectory. Movement as in literally getting up off the soft suede sofa, and hopping on a plane to god knows where from just one ounce of curiosity that stumbles into my eccentric little noggin.
But also movement as in figuratively. I grew up dancing, and have performed all of my life, and the most important thing about it that I have grasped… is that it brings people together, just like the magic underlying element a hot plate of food does. Dance and movement nourishes and calms the soul. It breaks down the barriers we defensively put up. It is often a unique style deeply rooted in our cultures antiquated history and rituals. An ancient dance, is just like a family recipe passed down from generation to generation. Even though you are not much of a dancer, as I am not an avid foodie (since my career makes it imperative that I watch my figure … but I still enjoy a delectable meal), I think we are very comparable.
I always used to take my training and my body so seriously, and I still do. But when you said, “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park, enjoy the ride!” I knew I had to expand my mind in order to complete the balance of yin and yang in my training, my diet, and my adventures. Taking this leap of faith has only enhanced the driving force behind my training and performances, but at last I can feel the fire under the stage, just as you’d feel the fire dancing under your wok.
It was the night of June 7th, 2018. The red wine went down exceptionally nice this night … and the delirium kicked in as I binge watched Parts Unknown. One destination melted into another and before you know it, I was entering the latest episode where you went to Hong Kong. In the middle of this episode… this stellar cover of House of Rising Sun in Mandarin echoed in the background of the simmering cosmopolitan cinematography. I was possessed to pause it and replay this tune over and over while simultaneously creating movements in the fibers of my being, just in my dark mysterious living room, haunted by this beautiful song. The musical content spoke to me so powerfully despite the fact that Mandarin is foreign to me.
I continued finishing the episode and finally drifted into slumber, only to awake to the terrible news of the beautiful legacy of wonder and sheer fearlessness you have carved into our archaeology for us in this lifetime. You were able to shake up some of the stubborn humans burnt into their very own cookie cutter, as Barack Obama eloquently put it, “he made us less afraid of the unknown”. Most of still don’t delve into the unknown straight off the bat, but with your guidance, it makes it a bit less scary to try now things and to open our minds.
I now bid you, a fond adieu into the unknown,