The Week Culture Died
This is a week we’ll be thinking about for years to come. I have a feeling in a decade when we have more perspective and space we’ll look back at this week and say damn, that was the week culture died. Or something significant and heavy like that.
For so many of us creatives, maybe especially us New Yorkers, Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade represented the dream. And I don’t mean just the dream of becoming wealthy, though there was that as well. I mean that through grit, the sheer force of will and some luck, they were able to craft their lives and obtain something that seems so unattainable: success on their own terms and real cultural relevance.
Both Bourdain and Spade pushed culture in a way that many of us really only dream of. When we’re frustrated in our daily grinds, we dream of building our own empires, launching our own brands or writing our way out of this mess. It’s a dream for so many New Yorkers. I know. I’m one of them.
Over the last three years, both Bourdain and Spade became sort of idols of mine. I would think about both of them as I wondered how and where my work and passions were taking me, always trying to combine the two into some sort of version of “success.” Hearing Spade and her husband on a podcast discussing how they built their company (she like me worked in journalism and had dreams of something outside of it), gave me hope that a journalist and creative could succeed in business. I dabbled in an apparel startup but realized I just didn’t have the grit Spade must have had.
Watching Bourdain also provided endless inspiration. He proved second (and third) acts can better than firsts and that a no bullshit approach is always right and true. I tried for years to interview him for my site, reaching out through official and unofficial channels. Even though we share a common friend, I could never manage to land Bourdain. He’ll always be the interview that got away for me. I doubt I’m alone in this though.
Why did both Bourdain and Spade take their own lives? I have no idea. I didn’t know them and wouldn’t ever pretend to know. I only know that right now many of us who looked up to both of them are probably feeling some confusion and loss, gutted even. How could it be so bad when you make it like that? Don’t your worries and fears disappear? It’s naive for us to think like that, even though that’s the very idea we cling to when we’re sitting in our cockroach-infested apartments, and killing ourselves at our jobs, dreaming of a way out. Dreaming of travel and having agency in our lives. Dreaming of work that provides meaning, grants us creative expression and lets us live free.
Sadly though this week, that’s dream seems more unreal than ever.
I've just stumbled across this uncut interview with Anthony Bourdain from Fast Company. It is fantastic.