I spent a lovely evening last night with about about five or six hundred of my food focused friends witnessing author and TV personality Anthony Bourdain speak at the beautiful Memorial Auditorium. I’m a big fan of Mr. Bourdain. I find his take-no-prisoners, worship-no-false-idols, non-nonsense approach to food and travel refreshing and invigorating. He was a brash, funny speaker, tearing into the low-hanging fruit of Food Network personalities like Guy Fieri and Sandra Lee, while fully admitting that he was wrong to rip on folks like Rachel Ray and Emeril because, after real-world interactions with them, he found them to be good people whom he really had no beef with.
It was an entertaining evening…with one uncomfortable caveat. The folks there seemed to regard Mr. Bourdain as some sort of revivalist preacher, or, even worse, a worship-worthy firgure whose words carried with them something more than wit and practical knowledge. A few folks sitting in our section shouted out things like “pork,” and “pho,” and “pig fat” as if they were religious incantations and recitational responses worthy of a pentecostal tent meeting. The Q&A session at the end of the talk was uncomfortable at best with people speaking of the author in messianic tones and declaring their life path had been inspired by him and, in another occurrence, that a certain couple’s “way of life” was dictated by his “teachings.”
Now, I’m sure Tony would be the first to made uncomfortable by any of these pronouncements, and he, in the line of the night, was quick to disabuse a certain young woman of the role of divine meaning in his life. “Do you ascribe the great fortune that you have to divine intervention?” she asked. “I think my good fortune is a perfect argument for there being no god,” he responded.
It was just these types of questions, however that gave me the heebie jeebies. I’m sure we in Sacramento are not alone in having our fair share of mental questionables, but I would have hoped that our city might have comported itself a little better. Is this a frequent occurrence at book signings and speaking engagements with which I’m unfamiliar? Do I not go to enough of these things to recognize a common pattern? Whatever the case, I imagine the 500 or so of us that didn’t get a chance to speak shook our heads with a small bit of embarrassment at our fellow locals and, while we didn’t quite share their outlook, probably equaled them in their enthusiasm for a guy who we think is pretty swell.
(and if this post seems a bit too high falutin, I apologize, I’ve been reading a lot of Christopher Hitchens lately)