I spent a decade in the restaurant industry, at all levels - dishwasher, cook, server, bartender, manager. I worked in pubs, chain joints, all-night breakfast troughs, a fancy place or two.
I loved/hated it for all the reasons one does - late nights, tax-free cash, shitty managers, insane owners, random hook-ups, long-term friendships, good food, free booze, access to drugs and parties and places most never see, for it is where the night people roam.
I discovered Kitchen Confidential in 2000. I was in transition from working in pro baseball to something new. Not sure what the "new" was yet, but I was kinda/sorta certain I was going in the right direction.
The business I started in 2000 imploded in September 2001, when my business partner, having lost friends due to the 9/11 attacks, bugged out and vanished. I had to do something to keep the lights on so I returned to the industry which sustained me through my twenties.
I read Kitchen Confidential and immediately recognized the voice. It was me, kinda, though I never dabbled in the hard(er) stuff and hadn't been to the Cape (yet). At the time, I began to work on a new life, an ideal life, and through a series of serendipitous circumstances I may describe at a later date, the ideal began to become a tangible, real thing. And I once again freed myself from living on tips.
I may have pursued my chosen path anyway, and after seeing his new show, A Cook's Tour, I had no fear of moving, of keeping the ground under me fluid and changing. It wasn't just a TV show that pushed me towards parts unknown (yes, that's intentional). It was the action itself. A self-perpetuating machine, seeing it set in motion by dudes like Tony, and realizing I already owned one of my own. I just hadn't really figured out how to turn it on to full power. I was certain I could survive and thrive on my own, with full Ownership of my present.
I was confident, driven, happy, optimistic. I owned It. Still am and do, by the way.
He seemed to own It too, moving from one network to another, improving his situation with each new deal. CNN gave him total control. Ownership.
I don't know Depression. I can't comprehend that kind of darkness. I don't understand the depths of despair one must feel to make that ultimate decision. I haven't a clue as to why one would leave behind that life, really any life, so full of love and adventure and success.
He, as many others have, inspired me to do things that may have never even occurred to me were possible.
I guess he no longer found it possible.
I'll never understand. And I am selfishly mad. And very very sad for those left behind that were infinitely closer to him.
I don't know how to end this, so I'll end it by imploring all 17 of you who'll read this to help those that need it, including yourself.
Just take care of each other, please.