Bordain’s public persona talked him into a corner with the convincing line that he had the best job in the world. He repeated that mantra as an opiate to sooth him from the brutal consequences of his self-imposed schedule of exhaustion.
Lonely moments of reflections gave insight on the pointlessness of making yet another disposable piece of entertainment for bored people who neither travel nor eat well. He had to push onward and take on all burdens to create the best product possible.
“This was a great gift,” he thought, for others like him were stuck in kitchens, offices, or drug dens. He was an unknown loser until his 40s and now he could go anywhere as a television personality. How could he give that up?
Eventually all the food, drink, and novel sights in the world were overtaken by 250 days of travel a year, proving an overdose. He had enough money to quit or take on small projects paced at a non-suicidal tempo. Instead, he was maxed out far from home and had no time for a stable relationship.
Every day of his show schedule left him exhausted and alone in a hotel room in some strange city where there was little to do but drink and watch television, which causes depression in otherwise healthy people.
Having already talked himself out of any possibility of leaving this situation, since what rational person would quit “the greatest job in the world”, he was trapped with horrific dread and had blocked the obvious exit.
After too many nights contemplating his self-constructed jail and mornings where he was resentful of how he knew the day would unfold, Bourdain finally made his own exit.
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“I hate my fans, too. I hate being famous. I hate my job,” Mr. Bourdain wrote to Ms. Busia-Bourdain in one of their near-daily text exchanges. “I am lonely and living in constant uncertainty.”
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“We never had that big story, that long piece that said what happened, how the guy with the best job in the world took his own life.”
Last fall, during a hiatus from filming, he launched a fifteen-city standup tour. Ripert suggested to me that Bourdain may be driven, in part, by a fear of what he might get up to if he ever stopped working. “I’m a guy who needs a lot of projects,” Bourdain acknowledged. “I would probably have been happy as an air-traffic controller.”