On June 8, Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef, writer, traveler, star of seemingly constant big-life moments, hanged himself in his hotel room in Kaysersberg, France. In a moment that will stick in my mind like other people's Elvis or Michael Jackson-is-dead moment, my husband came into the bathroom where I was putting on makeup and told me the news. Bourdain's suicide followed three days after the suicide of designer Kate Spade.
Just the previous week I'd renewed my commitment to watch both old and new episodes of "Parts Unknown," Bourdain's Emmy-winning television series that took viewers to corners of the world they would likely never go, to eat foods they would likely never eat. I wanted to study his voice — that clear, utterly confident, utterly irreverent, distinctly relatable voice — for a book I'm working on.
Like many others, the news of Bourdain's suicide stunned and saddened me. I read article after article in an attempt to figure out what had "happened," hoping to find some seminal piece of information that would explain why he'd done it. I read about his early days in restaurant kitchens, his marriages, his daughter, his divorce, his addictions, his rise to fame. The more I read, the more empty I felt, and the more empty I felt, the more I longed to express my feelings about his death. But when I sat down to write, I realized I had nothing original to add to the conversation.
Like everyone else, I feel terribly sad when I think about Bourdain's young daughter. I, too, thought he had it all. I, too understand that "having it all" is not a defense against depression, hopelessness or suicide. I, too, will miss his big personality, his curiosity, his goofy smile, the way he made the world accessible through food.
With nothing left to add, all I can do is feel the sadness and go about my days, made up as they are of seemingly constant little-life moments. There's working on the aforementioned book. There's walking the dogs and Instagramming their sleep positions. And there's the creation of an advocacy and lifestyle website for companion animals. I am deeply engaged in all of these things, but most so with the website — which, although I've been thinking about it for a year, does not have a name.
If you know me, you know I come from a family that abuses the privilege of naming things. We can take months to settle on a name (for a story, for a dog, sometimes for a person we've birthed) only to revoke it in favor of a new one the second we feel the old one no longer suits. Each of my dogs has had a primary name, several secondary names and a multitude of tertiary names; one had a subname I only used on holidays (Shark was Spooky Pooky, but only on Halloween); one had a stage name we only used when she was acting pompous ("Annie Lou Bearzette"); and one has a name we invoke only when we pick him up ("Kettle Bell").
Given how much I love naming (and renaming) things, I've been surprised at my inability to name my new pet website. But the need to name it reached a strangely fevered pitch these last few days. I've been throwing out names to my husband at breakfast, in the car on the way to everywhere, and at night when I (and therefore he) cannot sleep. I've been thinking of names while showering, cleaning the house, making dinner and while in active conversation with others. I'm never not thinking of names (I'm thinking of some right now).
The other morning on a walk with my husband, I threw out a few more potential website names: KateSpayed.com. PartsUnBone. KittenConfidential. They weren't real contenders, of course, just names inspired by the sad events of the last few days. Soon we were talking about Bourdain again, the suddenness of his death, how jarring was the news and how disturbing. Once again I felt the wish to put some effective and final label on a sadness that was bigger and more complex than the word sadness could begin to express, and once again, I couldn't. These are (forgive the obvious) parts unknown; and it is here, in this unfamiliar territory, that we remain: struggling with a loss we feel, but cannot, for the life of us, seem to name.
Dana Shavin is the author of a memoir, "The Body Tourist." She will be reading at the Chattanooga Readers and Writers Fair at 2 p.m. June 23 at the Chattanooga Public Library downtown. Email her at email@example.com.