When I Found Anthony Bourdain

In college my boyfriend (now husband) had on an episode of No Reservations for background noise. I didn’t appreciate the beauty of food shows then; I actually found the Food Network wholly boring, over all. This was a guy going to restaurants — a food show — so I ignored it, loafing around his room…

…until the host started quoting Kubla Khan (one of my favorite poems), and he did it to emphasize how much he enjoyed eating roasted pig. (Something about the “dome of pleasure”, if I’m remembering correctly.)

Then I knew, I wasn’t watching a food show. I was watching a fantastic show.

This was how I was introduced to Anthony Bourdain. I watched his show through my early post-college years, and liked catching his new show on CNN. I’ve fallen out of watching him so heavily the last few years, but he was still a celebrity who brought me joy. It hasn’t hit me yet, that he isn’t out there making new documentaries, quoting Romantic poetry as he digs into a new favorite food.

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Marks of a Writer

On the middle finger of my right hand, there’s a nice big callous at the first knuckle. This is where I hold my pen, where the plastic casing presses into my skin and bone as I frantically scribble out an idea before it vanishes like smoke.

This callous has sat there, simultaneously bumped and dented, for a long time, at least since middle school when I really began to write. I’ve always been oddly proud of it: aside from the piled notebooks, it’s an outward sign of what I do.

I thought I was the only one aware of this self-inflicted mark. Then one day, back in middle school, on the bus, a girl I didn’t talk to much (she was likely in the popular, extroverted group) pointed it out to me. “That means that you write a lot. That’s cool.”

This may have been the first time someone outside of my normal, insular life identified me as a writer. It was strange, shocking; I’d thought it was all in my head. But it wasn’t just a part of my inside world. To the world outside of me, I was a writer, someone with stories, who couldn’t stop putting them down. And she was right — that was pretty cool.

The Continuous Cumpulsion to Write

When I think back on it, I’ve been writing for a long time. In my earliest memory of piecing a story together, I was maybe five. I put together a little picture book — probably autobiographical, I recall the main character having brown hair — in my grandmother’s house. Someone allowed me to man the stapler, and when assembling the book I managed to punch one right into my fingertip. I don’t remember the particular pain, just that there was a bunch of it, and that either my grandmother or aunt had to hold my hand over the bathroom sink while they pried out the curled up staple. I don’t know what happened to the book.

In third grade I was part of a two person team with my friend who came up with a picture book series about a robot. I’d come up with the words, while she drew and colored in what I remember to be neat and brightly colored illustrations.

I'm pretty sure this was the storybook program we had.
I’m pretty sure this was the storybook program we had.

There was also the story book program on my family’s old Mac, which let me put in words under illustrations I built from what was basically fancy clip art. I recall writing about girls who went on adventures and made friends with animals — always a fantasy of mine.

Even nighttime was story time. Instead of going straight to sleep in the time immediately following lights out, I would imagine (and sometimes act out) a continuous tale of a raccoon who lived in the woods with all her forest friends, or a girl who who ran way into the jungle to survive in her own with no one but a tiger and a monkey for help (I told you, me and animals). Sometimes these would get elaborate, and span months. I don’t think I ever wrote these ones down.

Eventually I moved on to novels, written in spiral notebooks and sometimes typed on the computer (first the Mac, then a Compaq) to be saved on floppy disks. These I shared with Chelsea, my high school best friend and my first critique partner, who filled her own flippy disks with stories about dragons and adventures.

It’s harder to think of a break in the continuous compulsion to make up a story than it is to remember some piece of writing I did a decade or two ago. Even when I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer, some part of my brain did, and it hasn’t stopped this whole time.

Writing Problems: I Thought I Lost My Notebook

Last Christmas, my husband gave me a little green notebook. I love this notebook, and while it’s taking me a while to fill it up, I write a whole variety of things in it: band names, quotes, books I should read, notes on my day, memories. I date it, to keep track of what I’ve been thinking and when, but it’s nothing as truly important as, say, my handwritten, not-yet-typed story drafts.

Still, when I couldn’t figure out where I put that notebook on Saturday, I became, not panicked (that’s reserved for the aforementioned story drafts), but definitely anxious. Read More »