2023.24 : Wicked Game

Unfamiliar Territory

If you see tremendous beauty or tremendous pain where other people see little or nothing at all, you’re confronted with big feelings all the time. These emotions can be confusing and overwhelming. When those around you don’t see what you see and feel, this can lead to a sense of isolation and a general feeling of not belonging, of otherness.

— Rick Ruben

The self-portrait.

Throughout the ages, artists of all stripes seem to have felt it was incumbent upon them to create a self-portrait. This week, it was my turn. Who was this man the camera captured? While I didn’t recognize him, I did identify with his emotions. This bifurcation would haunt me for days, converging at the end of the week in a fantastic absurdity.

In the meantime. A remembrance brought on by the portrait. A man I never met and didn’t have that much in common with, making the impact of his work on my life all the more disproportionate. Anthony Bourdain.

Anthony saw and experienced tremendous beauty. Anthony saw and experienced tremendous pain. With a brave heart, he made it his life’s work not averting his eyes from neither pain nor beauty.

His example shaped how I savor life. He inspired dramatic personal improvement, benefiting not only myself but also those I come into contact with. To what extent his work’s influence had on me came was realized on the dark day of his early death. I wept as if I had lost one of my dearest friends, a couple of whom uncharacteristically phoned offering consoling words. Their concern will never fade from my memory.

“Somebody kill me!” Anthony pleaded, laid out on a hotel bed after being stuffed by a large feast. It was the first time I heard someone on television tell food and travel truth. A truth wrapped in a blanket of reverent respect. I was instantly hooked, as millions of others were too.

Anthony Bourdain’s work is evergreen. For good jumping-off point I recommend these two episodes: Anthony Bourdain: A Cook’s Tour Season 1 Episode 18: The French Laundry Experience and Parts Unknown S3 E3 Lyon.

This week’s companion video is Chris Isaak’s otherworldly masterpiece “Wicked Game.” Romantic, dark, sexy, spooky, loving, and sad. The lyrics are a good read. The music video was directed by the incomparable Herb Ritts, a photographer whose influence on my style is deserving of its own essay.

I dedicate this song to the memory of Anthony Bourdain and the wicked woman he invited into his life. Everyone was aware of Anthony’s precarious grip on this mortal coil. She had a choice. She chose selfish pettiness, the final contributing factor that snuffed out the flickering flame that brought light into this dim world. To her, I say, speaking for myself, I will never forget. I will never forgive.

And that’s how this essay was to end.

For days, my mind searched for a better ending. The brooding artist isn’t in my heart. Circumstances from the pandemic might be. The heart has survived joyous and grateful. How to balance the two? Diamond Dave. That’s how.

David Lee Roth, frontman extraordinaire, the bringer of fun. A spin of Ice Cream Man never fails to bring a devilish smile. After the spotlight of fame shifted to others, he keeps on living life to the fullest. A legit paramedic. A legit painter. A legit Japanophile. Always a showman.

This week, he dropped his latest creation for creation’s sake: David Lee Roth – Made Up My Mind. So much joy. I really like the blooper they left in the edit, Dave falling after a slick dance move followed up by an effervescent dance move with a cane. OK, Dave, challenge accepted.

As anyone who has become a caretaker for a loved one can testify, the new lows can seem endless. The other morning started with a new low. After it was resolved, I had hopes the rest of the day wouldn’t get worse. That hope was dashed by the end of lunch.

I took mom to lunch to a place we’d never been. The concept, execution of details, the food, and staff were all so delightful. After eating, we hung around chit-chatting with the staff. The 20-year-old waitress innocently asked me about my mom, “When did you two meet?”

Yeah, that happened.

Mom didn’t hear her and asked her to repeat the question, and she did. I interjected, “My mom and…” The waitress was horrified by her faux pas, exclaimed, “but she looks so young!” That’s all mom heard. What I heard, the voice in my head saying, my first self-portrait told no lies. Proof that my pre- and post-pandemic face is on par with the before and after presidential portraits. We all had a good laugh.

Then it came up that the waitress and her family were going to visit Europe this summer. She asked if I had any tips. She had her answer with the taking copious notes as I tailored side trips for her. She was thrilled. With certainty, I know that was only possible because I internalized Anthony Bourdain’s life’s work.

The truth spoken “out of the mouth of babes” did sting. Only one thing to do: turn to friends and family I could depend on to howl with laughter upon hearing this story. They didn’t fail me. The laughter was cleansing. Unexpectedly, I was gifted with their emphatic moans and groans that were akin to if I had sliced a fingertip off, and all that could be said was, “Oh, that’s gotta hurt!”

That’s the self-portrait of the self-portrait.

And now… know the photograph.

Wicked Game - Single Edit - Official Music Video

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