Parts Unknown

I am deeply saddened by the loss of Anthony Bourdain, in a way that few celebrity deaths effect me. Over the last two decades, Bourdain's shows have been one of the few places in American media that have deliberately tried to show travel and exploration as a human activity, a cross cultural exchange that changed both the visitor and the visited. That's an ethos deeply embedded in the idea of the Peace Corps, and it's one that has always spoken to me.

The United States isn't a uniquely inward-looking country, but we are a determinedly inward-looking one, and Bourdain always tried to expand the horizons of people who haven't left by letting people from other places (even other places in the US) speak for themselves and tell their stories in a way that made them the center of their own stories, even if Bourdain had his own stories to tell. I looked forward to each new season of his show, and just last week, watching the episode in Armenia, I turned to Stacey and said, "We won't have him forever." I thought I was talking about ten or twenty years from now, not a little over a week later. We shall not see his like again.

But what I really want to celebrate here are how bad, how inexplicably, how perversely terrible his theme songs were. He was so clearly proud of having people like Mark Lanegan, Josh Homme, and John Spencer record theme songs for him that it didn't seem to matter to him that they are collectively some of the worst music ever recorded.

I will miss hearing them very much.