Shortly before I learned of Anthony Bourdain’s death, I watched the “Trinidad” episode of Parts Unknown. It’s a great episode all-around, but it was his interview with Calypso Rose, first Queen of Calypso, that really moved me. Later, when I heard about his suicide, that interview haunted me.
The “Trinidad” episode is one of my favorites from Bourdain’s oeuvre. I can hear him snarking at me from beyond the grave for calling his work an oeuvre, but that’s what it was. It was his artistic creation, one that was loved by many, many people.
When Bourdain and Calypso Rose spoke it was wasn’t like his interviews with important people or even his chat’s with other chefs. It was an older artist speaking to a younger one. She began singing Calypso when she was thirteen. At that time, Calypso was a man’s world. Her own father thought it was sinful. Bourdain asked her how she found the courage to do it. She answered, “My fans.” She knew their lives were hard, but when they came to hear her sing, she could make them happy, at least for a while.
That’s when Bourdain asked her the question that has stuck with me. He asked, “Is making beautiful things enough?”
She replied, without hesitation and with absolute certainty, “Yes, making beautiful things is enough.”
Anthony Bourdain made beautiful things. I hope he knew that. I’ve often thought that if he could have believed what Calypso Rose said to him, he might not have killed himself. That’s the thought that runs through my head whenever I think of him.
Of course, I don’t really know why he chose suicide. I can’t know. So perhaps what I’m really doing is reminding myself: “Yes, making beautiful things is enough.”