Trias Politica! Not One Office or Leader!

Over the last two days or so my 82-year old Mom has been watching a steady dose of C-SPAN television. In the days leading up to these last two I have had to shut myself up in my bedroom when she ventures over to the FOXNews Channel. To me it is appalling the propaganda crap they peddle. She knows clearly how I feel about their blatant disinformation schemes. Therefore, maybe out of compassion, she feels bad about forcing her son into his room for hours as if being disciplined in time-out. 😄 Thus, I’m guessing the recent C-SPAN viewing.

This morning she was catching C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, Open Phones, Part 2. The topic was Should Mike Pence be considered not only a hero, but also a 2024 Republican Presidential Candidate. Nearly every single caller Greta Brawner took from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents—and it was some 15-16 total callers—never really called-in with their answers to those questions about Pence. They all simply wanted to vent their personal frustrations about the January 6 Committee Hearings and how atrocious life has currently become for average Americans since mid-February 2022. No surprise, the show descended into furious callers trashing either Dems or Repubs or Biden, Pence, and Trump. It is also worthy to note that all the callers sounded like they were 50–79 years of age, mostly on the elderly end of that age group.

The subject of what Mike Pence is today, what he was Jan. 4–6, 2021, and what he might be in the 2024 Elections was none of my concern or inkling of interest. What Kathleen Parker, columnist at The Washington Post opines about Pence is precisely what I personally think about his 3-days of doing his vowed Constitutional duty to protect our democratic elections compared to his dereliction of some 1,457-days of NOT doing that duty.

No, what utterly appalled and astonished me about every single caller, of all three various parties, and what they were bemoaning and ranting on and on about was how ALL of them kept singling out one man, one party, or one office one branch as the sole cause of this nation’s current Constitutional threats and socioeconomic problems, mostly inflation, skyrocketed gas prices, and a stolen 2020 election.

People, elderly callers—granted most of them from the Southern states with Kentucky, California, and Maryland being outside of the Deep South—and anyone else who passed high school History & Social Studies (with state and federal government included), I have one simple question for your very simple minds:

When did our nation’s governmental system change from a Trias Politica model with Equal Separation of Powers… and into a Dictatorship ruled by One Man or Office!? When!?

For all Americans and non-Americans abroad, please, please, PLEASE read this definition of what it means to have a Trias Politica model consisting of Equal Separation of Powers with Checks and Balances on all three branches as advocated by French Renaissance philosopher Baron de Montesquieu and later ironed out by James Madison’s Federalist Papers then our six (6) Core Founding Fathers. Taken from the Bill of Rights Institute in Arlington, VA, it states:

In our system of separated powers, each branch of government is not only given a finite amount of power and authority but arrives at it through entirely different modes of election. Madison theorized that as it is the Constitution that grants each branch its power, honorable ambition that ultimately serves the highest interests of the people could work to maintain the separation. In other words, since Congress is not dependent on the presidency or the courts for either its authority or its election to office, members will jealously guard its power from encroachments by the other two branches and vice versa. For Madison, this organization of powers answered the great challenge of framing a limited government of separated powers: “first enabl[ing] the government to control the governed…and in the next place, obling[ing] it to control itself”.

James Madison, Federalist No. 51, 1788
from the Bill of Rights Institute

Now, what does the above, precisely articulated definition by Madison and Montesquieu implicitly spell out as well? Simple really. It means that if there are three branches of government with equal limited authority and responsibilities as well as commissioned to safeguard against abuse of authority or dereliction of their responsibilities, then no one branch is completely responsible for said abuses or dereliction. Nor do those three branches have the total authority or Carte Blanche to change its direction (popular or not) or its outcomes. In other words, since 1788 the successes or failures of the U.S. government has been and is ultimately shared by all three branches. There’s more.

Given the functions of the active legislative and executive branches with regard to publicly needed policies and laws or their refinements, and their intentions and outcomes, the legislative and executive bear more instant responsibility for the failures or successes, while the judicial branch merely checks, monitors, oversees, etc, on the sideline, if you will, the Constitutionality of enacted laws, orders, and policies. But never, in our 230+ years of governing history has our federal or 51-state governments been lead by a dictator, or one man! Never. To imply such an accusation or explicitly state such a rant is an erroneous, categorically wrong statement and is not based upon anything in our standing Constitution, Bill of Rights, or the 27 Amendments. Period.

The POTUS can never be fully blamed for America’s ills, nor can he or she be hoisted as the sole hero of our country’s glories and victories. He/She must have bipartisan help and support from both chambers of Congress, approval (or silence) from the Supreme Court, and more importantly… the general help and support of a good majority of the American people. Without those four components, no one man or President can accomplish great things. Furthermore, no one man or President can be entirely blamed for dismal disastrous outcomes either. As the great Benjamin Franklin once exclaimed during the birthing of our nation and its eventual Constitution:

“We must all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

benjamin franklin, philadelphia continental congress – 1776

Sadly, however, it has become glaringly obvious that America’s general population over the last 4-5 decades has been seriously deficient and undermined in learning and applying their civic educations. Rarely do I ever hear an average ordinary American—particularly in my home state of Texas—speaking, writing rants on social-media, or calling in on C-SPAN to show off their cunning expert knowledge about our Constitution and Trias Politica model as engineered by our Core Founding Fathers. Nine times out of ten they’re blabbering about what they know little or nothing about. It quickly becomes obvious when they all single out one office or one man.

This detrimental, lethal deficiency of civic education over the last 4-5 decades culminated on January 6th, 2021 with the seditious attack and coup on the Capitol, members of Congress, and democracy itself took place. It is appalling to listen to and read. It is incredibly dangerous to the survival of our Constitutional democratic Republic. Not only is this ignorance by too many ordinary (moderate?) Americans a ticking time-bomb, but when a Cult of Personality (dictator) uses that unfettered, emblazoned ignorance and channels it into continuous disinformation, lies, mob-rule or mafia-rule by its cult leader, followed by insurrection(?)… then Judge Michael Luttig’s stern warning about Trump, his allies, and his fanatical ignorant supporters as ‘a very real, clear and present danger‘ only scratches the surface of what precisely has been and is at risk. It is…

The dismantling, destruction, and total loss of our country’s democracy, maybe forever if ordinary Americans don’t get better educated and wise up fast to cultish subversions by the “one man” and his fanatical allies and supporters. Texas is likely too far gone by now due to multiple decades of apathy and shitty K-12 educations here.

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Human Relations

For many multiple unknown months now I have been having to think, rethink, assess, reassess, refine, modify, embrace, and discard many aspects of my personal life. A very large part of this time-energy redirection was caused by the onset of COVID-19 in late 2019 and early 2020. No surprise, the ripple-effects of the pandemic are still a lingering impact. That necessary and expanded “redirection” was further caused by my 82-yr old mother’s Stage 5 & 6 Dementia. That second, newly expanded “redirection” by dementia was further exacerbated by my sister’s drug-relapse this past May 16th and 17th and as a result her consequential homelessness then ultimate move-in with Mom and I.

When local and not-so-local friends—two or three very dear friends—recently asked about my well-being, how I was doing and how my Mom was doing, I was candidly honest with them. Some listened empathetically, some consoled me and helped me laugh, and others lectured me.

I’ve never been a fan of sugar-coating factual reality. Furthermore, being unabashedly candid with others, especially “closer friends,” is a True-to-Myself and thus true to others life-principle I live by. I will never sacrifice or betray that principle, ESPECIALLY if it only makes them feel good or myself feel good. I am not ashamed in the LEAST of this personality principle to which I hold to airtight. It’s healthy existence (protection?) for myself, is not designed for anyone else. After all, no one on this planet will ever be confused or slightly unsure of what Dwain feels, thinks, and does. And I firmly believe there is a ton of value with this principle and condition. Some/many do not or never fully recognize that value. Nevertheless, I give it out for the sake of integrity and dignity… for myself and for them; they deserve that from me. And yes, I expect it, or hope to get it, in (equal?) return. I think this is completely fair.

Therefore, I sense I need another brutally honest, introspective checkup. I want to further examine myself and the various components and subcomponents of this principle within human relations. You might call this blog-post a Principle Checkup, for me and perhaps anyone else who wishes to join. As a result, I’ve come up with these nine questions.

1 — What is the number one need in every human’s life, or the mental-emotional-physical needs?

Is it feeling and knowing you are loved, valued, irreplaceable? Personally, I would rank this need and its three subcomponents pretty high up the checklist, if not all the way at the top. PsychologyToday.com and Dr. Glenn Geher, Ph.D. has this to say, or rather what the antithesis of being and knowing you are loved, valued, and irreplaceable are:

While love often gets a bad rap as some nebulous experience that is really only for dreamers, all kinds of evidence suggests that, in fact, love is a real feature of our evolved psychology3. Love, which seems to encourage people to form deep connections and bonds with others, plays a powerful role in not only cultivating happiness, but in helping people to develop healthy alliances and communities that have the capacity to lead to all kinds of benefits. Further, love actually is represented in various neurological and hormonal processes4. In short: Love is a real thing.

In the human evolutionary story, forming close, trusting, and loving connections with others is a core feature of how we thrive at all levels. Love is, in short, a foundational element of thriving. And this fact is true for people across the globe5.

Dr. Glenn geher, ph.d. – state university new york; founding director of the campus’ Evolutionary studies program (evos)

But there are many forms of love, yes? Are some love forms better than others? Should we strive to obtain all of its forms during our lifetimes? Are some of us incapable of these forms, or certain love forms? Would that be a cop-out? More on this later.

2 — Is our need for three-component love clearly, proactively, and accurately expressed to others? Do others correctly interpret that/those expression(s)? Why or why not?

I will now reserve my own comments about these nine questions unless I feel they’d direct and/or pique and invoke some closer introspection.

3 — How many forms of love truly exist?

Since ancient Greece many modern anthropologists suggest a minimum of six basic forms of love existing in human relations. In their Greek form they are:

  • Eros
  • Philia
  • Ludus
  • Agape
  • Pragma
  • Philautia

For a detailed explanation of these six forms of love go to my February 2016 blog-post: Untapped Worlds – Maior Liberatio. Scroll down to the Love and Compersion section. On the subject of not striving and obtaining at least some degree of all six love-forms, I personally feel all six are absolutely reachable. In addition, all six most definitely contribute to a more fulfilling, more whole, more happy life and human relations. Period. I speak from first-hand experience.

4 — What type of relations with other humans do we have in our lives? What types have we had in our past? Which ones worked best and which ones collapsed? Why and why not?

PsychologyToday.com and Robert Taibbi, LCSW share the five most common types of relations: four bad, one good. Those five types, their climate, dynamics, and long-term effect are as follows, however, for the sake of time and space I will only post each with their long-term effect; maybe that will interest viewers to go read the entire article. It is well worth it, after all, recognition and accurate identification of problem-issues is the first step…

  1. Competitive/Controlling — There’s a jockeying for power about whose way is better, who wins the argument, whose expectations and standards do we follow, whose career is more important. There are a lot of arguments that quickly turn into power struggles, battles over getting the last word.
    Long-term impact: These couples [or friends] get tired of battling and divorce [detach], or one finally concedes, or they both finally define their own turfs that they are in charge of.
  2. Active/Passive — One partner [or friend] is essentially in charge and does most of the heavy lifting in the relationship while the other goes along. While some of these start out as competitive relationships with one conceding, more often this imbalance has been there from the start. There are few arguments, though occasionally the active person will become resentful for carrying the load or not getting enough appreciation. They explode or act out, but then feel bad and go back to the same role [routine trap].
    Long-term impact: The risk for the active partner [or friend] is that she/he will get burned out or resentful and leave. The partner left behind either needs to become more independent or find someone else to take over.
  3. Aggressive/Accommodating — Here the power difference is not based on caretaking, but on raw power. One partner [or friend] is clearly in charge, and the other accommodates less out of passivity and more out of fear. While the intimidating partner [or friend] will easily blow up, there is little real conflict. There is emotional abuse and sometimes physical abuse.
    Long-term impact: Either the relationship continues, or the accommodating partner/friend finally gets the courage to leave/detach. The aggressive partner/friend will do what is necessary to try to pull the other back into the relationship. If that doesn’t work, the abusive partner/friend will likely find someone else to replace the other.
  4. Disconnected/Parallel Lives — There is little arguing, but also little connection. They go on autopilot, with both having their own routines. The relationship seems stale, they have little in common; they are more roommates [distant acquaintances] than lovers [or close friends].
    Long-term impact: Midlife or older-age crises may cause one or both to feel that time is running out. This may precipitate arguing and efforts to either finally revitalize the relationship or leave. Or, they continue saying to themselves that this is good enough, or that they’re too old to change [then gradually wither away].
  5. Accepting/Balanced — The couple [or friends] are able to work together as a team, complementing each other. They each recognize and actively accept the other’s strengths. They’ve got each other’s back, both are interested in helping the other be who he or she wants to be. They are able to revitalize the relationship when it begins to grow stale; they are able to solve problems rather than sweeping them under the rug.
    Long-term impact: Midlife and older-age crises may arise, but they are able to work through them.

5 — Were some of your past relationships or current ones similar/identical or a sub-form of a Black Hole in outer space?

6 — Were the expectations for the best or failed relationships reasonable or unreasonable expectations? Why and why not?

7 — Where do our blueprints-of-relations originate? Do they flex and/or adapt over time to everchanging conditions, both environmentally and amongst our human daily/weekly engagements? Why or why not?

“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is Nature’s inexorable imperative.”

h.g. wells

8 — Are certain man-made social-systems, ideologies, belief/faith systems flexible, adaptable, and sustainable from subatomic micro-levels to organic-human levels up to macro-levels of our Universe and the Cosmos? Why or why not?

9 — Given the above (honest!) answers, am I at a healthy juncture? Am I thriving, becoming a more whole human-being? Or am I in need of (serious?) change, redirection, and/or bigger better refinements?

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

In my near 6-decades of living, these are questions I have sometimes asked myself when my circumstances and those immediately around me take a noticeable, significant, or life-changing shift. Some are like trimmers, others like an earthquake. To me this 9-point litmus test on say the pitch, roll, and yaw of my airplane’s performance, has to be a regular, maybe even frequent introspection and raw honest maintenance routine. Seriously, what’s the consequences of not doing it? How obtuse of me, right? 😉

No surprise, I’ve been going through these checks—a few of them new—these last 3-5 years. But inescapably these last 9-months. The process damn sure has its annoyances, its frustrations. It’s painfully exhausting sometimes. Yet, one predictable, consistent outcome after doing it is…

I eventually find my balance and my buoyancy returns in order to handle my ship’s rudder or airplane’s stick. And so I know the next inevitable shift or storm I will have gained more treasured experience to cope, survive, and hopefully find calmer, pristine Seas of Living Tranquility.

Eh, or I won’t. Hah!

What about you? Might this litmus test help or has it, in your own version? Share it if you like, or as much or as little that works and doesn’t work for you. 🙂 Also, I’d enjoy reading your answers to some or all of my above questions.

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In Memoriam to My Brother

Several times since January of 2022 my sister and Mom explicitly urged me to getaway, to take a 4-5 night break away from my 24/7 Caretaking of Mom. She is 82-years old with severe Stage-6 Dementia. By March 31st it was so obvious to myself, to Mom, and especially my sister that I badly needed a break. Mom added, in her usual sharp wit, and said I need a break as well, from you! It won’t just do YOU good Dwain!

Mom was right. We had been getting on each other’s last frazzled nerves for several weeks. I soon texted and called a few of my close friends in Dallas to tell them I was coming up one weekend in April. Just planning the trip was quite reinvigorating, I hate to say. No offense Mom. But 4-5 nights just for me? Oh yeah! Where do I sign? Plus, my friends got excited, one in particular: my all-time best friend of near 25-years. Literally like a brother to me. His name? James, James E. Allen III, and he was my one and only closest male friend. Then a situation happened.

On the weekend-Sunday prior to my arrival in Dallas the following Thursday, James informed me he would have to have Quadruple Bypass Surgery and Heart-valve Replacement April 27th, the day before I arrive. My entire “Getaway” plans just changed, drastically. No longer was my trip going to be ALL fun and relaxation, especially with the main character (James) not being readily free and available as planned. Before this medical news, we had already decided to do several of our favorites things together: watch the Dallas Mavericks basketball playoff games as well as the Dallas Stars hockey playoff games together at two-three of our favorite bars. Chunk all those plans out the window now. He would be in a hospital bed my entire trip.

If you would like to read much more extensive details of my trip and the events surrounding James, my dearest friend, go here: Further details.

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

Tuesday morning, May 3rd, 2022. James coded 2-3 more times during the night and wee-hours, Erin texted me. James wasn’t doing well, she said. He can barely squeeze your hand/fingers.

About 1:45pm Erin told me it was all just too much for his body. He had passed away. When I got off the phone, I broke down. My closest friend was gone, my only dearest male friend. He and I would never again talk for hours about sports, mostly his two favorite: American football and basketball. We also shared and confided everything about ourselves with each other. We laughed more than we deserved together because each other’s wit made us. And our sometimes clumsy brain-farts and bad decisions cracked us both up. We knew our best and our intimate worst parts, and yet never wavered in our loyalty to each other, through the best of times and times of pure hell. James was a dependable brother to me like no other guy I’ve ever known. Life will not be the same without him.

James E. Allen, III: b. August 10, 1970 — d. May 3, 2022.

I will miss you terribly brother for the rest of my days. There’s another empty void now in my life, as well as one for many others. RIP James.

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Living Madison’s Nightmare

Sunday, April 24th, I caught an exceptional interview on a global, international news-station that I found utterly resounding and spot-on with America’s recent dumbing-down of internet consumers. The interviewee was Johnathan Haidt, an American social psychologist, author, and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University Stern School of Business. Haidt also wrote an exceptional article on this subject for The Atlantic Magazine which I found poignantly true called, Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid: It’s not just a phase. He examines the uncanny similarity of an ancient Jewish biblical story with what James Madison, in 1786-1787 in Federalist No. 10, feared most about our Republic Democracy’s vulnerable, fragile Achilles’ Heel:

The story of Babel is the best metaphor I have found for what happened to America in the 2010s, and for the fractured country we now inhabit. […]

Babel is a metaphor for what some forms of social media have done to nearly all of the groups and institutions most important to the country’s future—and to us as a people.

jonathan haidt – The atlantic, april 2022

Jonathan Haidt further explains, the top five behemoth ‘Social-media companies [at the time] brought web-connected Americans into enhanced virality by 2009 to 2012 and deep into Madison’s nightmare.’ Madison’s prophetic knowledge of human nature was:

…the innate human proclivity toward “faction,” by which he meant our tendency to divide ourselves into teams or parties that are so inflamed with “mutual animosity” that they are “much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to cooperate for their common good.”

jonathan haidt – the atlantic, april 2022

I have written a few blog-posts about this very topic and how it is a mystery to me, that ordinary internet-browsers seem to contract all too often Critical-thinking Amnesia once they get on social-media sites or the sensationalizing tabloid-news platforms known for conspiracy-theories and ill-repute, let alone spreading blatant misinformation. Suddenly their ability to think independently, question opinions or claimed facts or ideologies, or to do necessary fact-checking… just vanishes! Is it because we all desire confirmation bias? Are we afraid of what the real facts will be, challenging our tiny comfort-zones? Where did our U.S role-models and 1776 motto of E Pluribis Unum go?

A quick list of those posts before I continue to The Atlantic’s link to Jonathan Haidt’s article…

In a November 2019 issue of The Atlantic, Haidt wrote another equally exceptional article with Tobias Rose-Stockwell called The Dark Psychology of Social Networks: Why it feels like everything is going haywire. There is a link from the first Haidt webpage to this one with Rose-Stockwell. I highly recommend both articles, in any order.

But gradually, social-media users became more comfortable sharing intimate details of their lives with strangers and corporations. As I wrote in a 2019 Atlantic article with Tobias Rose-Stockwell, they became more adept at putting on performances and managing their personal brand—activities that might impress others but that do not deepen friendships in the way that a private phone conversation will.

Once social-media platforms had trained users to spend more time performing and less time connecting, the stage was set for the major transformation, which began in 2009: the intensification of viral dynamics.

jonathan haidt – the atlantic, april 2022

So here’s the link to Jonathan Haidt’s Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid. When you’ve read it, or both articles, feel free to share your own thoughts, point-of-view, or questions to startup a discussion. Hopefully a discussion of how we can better manage these private social-internet platforms without violating our Constitution’s First Amendment of free-speech—that is…while simultaneously upholding (in the public sectors) the legal accountability and any criminal/civic Accessory charges upon the (free-)speaker or writer. These are called Speech Crimes. After all, it is the latter case that most Americans forget or are ignorant of their own Constitutional laws.

A free-speaker, under our said comprehensive, federal Constitution, must be held responsible for what she/he publicly proclaims. Otherwise, defamation, threats, inciting violence, or obscenities can (and often do) run rampant without consequences. This is, in my opinion, a large untreated cancer that exacerbates our current U.S. sociopolitical stupidity, as Haidt puts it, and fuels our sinking into factions and severe polarization of which Haidt alludes and eerily James Madison foretold.

Live Well – Love Much – Laugh Often – Learn Always

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Destiny to Tragedy

Last Sunday night I was able to catch a documentary film I’ve been eagerly wanting to watch for awhile, Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain by Morgan Neville. Like most of his fans I couldn’t get enough of the diverse places, people, cultures and cuisine he’d show and share with us in his prolific storytelling way. Not knowing the intimate minutia which offers some understanding and closure of “Why” gnawed at me ever since June 8th, 2018.

His suicide was terribly sad for me as much as it was to his dearest friends and family. As some of you know, I am a survivor of my Dad’s suicide, so this was especially heart-wrenching. I identified with Anthony Bourdain and his passion for human cultures foreign to his and my own. Now he identified with me in an all-together new, painful way. He had left behind a young daughter with no explanation, no answers. How could this happen? Why do that to your own little girl? The following day I had as many questions as any of his fans. Bourdain was not simply well-known from No Reservations and Parts Unknown, but for many in his personal circles on an intimate level he was an enigma and seemingly more unknown.

Check that. That is, unknown to those with no knowledge or awareness of Manic Depressive Disorder and mental-illness. Did you know that Anthony Bourdain was a heroine addict until just months before he became a New York restaurant line-cook and eventually Executive Chef at Brasserie Les Halles in Manhattan?

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

One of my favorite lines describing the paradox of human existence and its sometimes absurd events in which we find ourselves, comes from one of my most endearing movies. On film, as it is in life, the bewilderment can invoke our highest joys, our lowest despairs, and then when the ride ends inexplicably give either little solace or an enormous epiphany. The line comes from the 1990 film Dances With Wolves where John Dunbar is utterly perplexed by the outcome of his attempted death at the hands and gun barrels of his Confederate enemies. He writes in his journal:

“The strangeness of this life can not be measured. In trying to produce my own death, I was elevated to the status of living hero.”

John J. Dunbar – Dances with wolves

Anthony Bourdain’s rise to food & travel hero was not unlike 1st Lt. Dunbar’s trajectory to Civil War hero—with the exception that both men arranged very divergent epilogues.

Bourdain at Green Dirt Farm, KS – No Reservations, 2012

As I listened to each interview from Anthony’s closest colleagues, dear friends, acquaintances, ex-wives, family, and clips with his last girlfriend… the signs and bells showed themselves. The mental warning flags were waving as plain as day to me—internally Bourdain was in a desperate struggle. Also obvious was his one single coping-mechanism for a self-perceived unwinnable strain or torment. It was as one colleague aptly described, “Tony was always rushing. Rushing to enter a scene. Rushing to exit to the next scene.” Three symptoms of Manic Depressive Disorder are in fact 1) unusually increased activity, energy or agitation, 2) racing thoughts, and 3) abnormally upbeat, jumpy or wired behavior. One of his close director-producers remarked, “Tony was usually quite restless.” In his own words repeated many times in various forms:

“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.”

anthony bourdain

Like many, I thoroughly enjoyed Bourdain’s travels from continent to continent finding and visiting his favorite acclaimed chef’s while unabashedly finding the remote hole-in-the-wall grills, street-venders and pubs. His wit and candor, then compassion one day and blunt smart-ass another is certainly what made his shows unique and appealing to me and his audience. I often thought, “This is the type of travel companion I would want exploring the world eating, drinking, dancing, and laughing until I could no more.” He’d be the best of friends and the worst of friends; hopefully more the former than the latter, right?

It is apparent in his interactions with native fellow diners Anthony’s dark side would surface. His camera-crew, directors, and producers also knew this. One of Bourdain’s own top three films of all-time was Apocalypse Now. His two favorite characters in the movie Capt. Willard (Martin Sheen) and Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). For those of us who closely watched Bourdain and more closely listened to him, this comes as no surprise. In the movie while on their disturbing personal journeys, both characters—like Bourdain’s restless soul—Willard and Kurtz come to realize how abnormal and bizarre life can impact us, mark us, and change all of us whether we embrace the experience for its reality or not.

“Without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, and moribund.”

anthony bourdain

Spoken like a true, emboldened always restless explorer. From my years employed in the Psych/A&D field, this was a veiled invitation to not take his words at face value. The last word was a dead giveaway. Addiction, with accompanying disorders and left unaddressed and untreated, will not disappear. They only go dormant until triggered again. Though Anthony Bourdain quit his heroin addiction cold-turkey on his own early in his career, locking it up in the proverbial back closet or basement doesn’t make it disappear. As his dearest friend and artist David Choe correctly described, “Tony’s addiction only jumped.” It merely morphed into restless workaholism then incessant perfectionism.

It can be easily said Anthony Bourdain reached the top of the world when he met, fell in love, had a daughter (Ariane) and married Ottavia Busia in 2007. It was unmistakable Anthony was overly happy. He had found a stable, normal foundation he often thought alluded him. He became more grounded and less “rushing” or constantly semi-frantic. The smaller things in life now mattered much more. He even found great joy grilling hamburgers, sausage, and hotdogs in their backyard next to the swimming pool with only Ottavia and Ariane around.

Anthony, Ottavia, and daughter Ariane (right)

Sadly, by 2015, just eight years later, this fulfilling, steady base which Ottavia and her family lovingly provided, balancing Anthony so well… was no longer enough. Adventure-seeking’s addiction had been gaining more and more head-space and hormones in Tony. Woah! Hello! Big yellow-flag waving again to be noticed!

Anthony had several good friends that were musicians. One of his closest was Josh Homme of Queens Of the Stone Age. In one of their clips together from Roadrunner, Josh and Anthony are sharing years earlier the non-stop travel and touring they do and how it effects them and exhausts them and their families. In this scene Homme shares a poignant pearl of wisdom with Bourdain: “You love it when you’re home and you love it when you leave home.” Bourdain could only pause, stare thunderstruck, nod, and remain silent. It hit home, hard; pun absolutely intended.

Anthony and Iggy in Miami – image by Max Vadukul, GQ magazine

Another gut-punch scene for Anthony was his meal with Iggy Pop. In fact, the interview with Iggy was extraordinarily telling about where Anthony’s head, heart, and addiction were at the time. He asked Iggy, What thrills you? Iggy answers his question…

This is very embarrassing, but being loved, and actually appreciating the people that are freely giving that to me.

iggy pop

Bourdain’s face said it all when Iggy finished; he hadn’t experienced love anywhere close to that magnitude. Or at least Anthony thought he had never experienced it before. His blank stare at Iggy was telling as if Anthony had just been stripped of all his clothing and well constructed walls torn down. The 5-second, slow-motion, silent void was palpable. I could see in Tony’s eyes the deep disappointment poorly hidden behind his face. Once again, bright yellow-flag waving, begging to be seen by some rescuer!

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

There’s no doubt that Anthony Bourdain touched many people’s lives. He touched them in lots of ways, mine included. But perhaps the most frequent touch was identifying with those strangers compassionately, supportively by first listening acutely, then acknowledging in Anthony’s intuitive, eloquent response… he got it. He walked in their shoes even if it was only for an hour or two. As his two mega-hit shows portray time after time, strangers loved him for that. It was his nature to know what question was best to ask, then he asked another just as probing, precise and genuinely curious, yet getting deep into their story, their core. I identified fondly with Anthony’s non-assuming gift for the marrow of people’s story over food and drink. Bourdain was an incredible explorer and storyteller even Marco Polo or Charles Dickens would envy!

There are many good and not-so-good reviews of Roadrunner, but being a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain for years and avid watcher of No Reservations and Parts Unknown, two of a few critical reviews I think are most accurate and grasp the entire intended content of Neville’s documentary. First is Alissa Wilkinson’s of Vox Media. She states it’s thorny, a bit uncomfortable due to the mental-illness never addressed by Bourdain or his closest friends. The other review is by Owen Gleiberman of Variety Magazine. But Wilkinson says (emphasis mine):

So, it’s a gutting film. It’s unsettling in spots. It doesn’t offer answers, or at least not answers that make things better. The end of Bourdain’s life doesn’t have a single meaning, a neat takeaway. The messiness of existence is the point.

And that, Roadrunner suggests, is where Bourdain’s cultural significance lies. He loved food, loved people, loved travel and adventure. He could be brusque and loving, tender and tough, brilliant and baffling. He was a person worth making a biographical documentary about. In resisting the urge to paint its subject as a saint, Roadrunner gives us something better: a human.”

Alissa wilkinson, vox media, https://www.vox.com/22573903/roadrunner-anthony-bourdain-review

The other review is by Owen Gleiberman, writing for Variety Magazine, and it describes in-depth Anthony Bourdain’s documentary film in more powerful terms:

[Roadrunner is] an intimate and fascinating portrait of the beloved celebrity chef and television globe-trotter and a spiritual investigation into why [Bourdain’s] life ended.

Owen Gleiberman, variety

But there’s no denying that Bourdain’s dark side and later obsession with death and dying were just as prominent as his gift in living life to its fullest. Gleiberman concludes quite correctly in the same piece, Bourdain’s death was a tragedy, but Roadrunner suggests it was a tragedy with a touch of destiny.

Over the years of watching Anthony Bourdain’s shows, I began to notice his words and self-taught wisdom was increasingly contradicting his off-camera behavior. Yes, we’re all given a margin of error, a sort of grace period accumulation for what we say and do. This is good, this is necessary. However, what if forms of mental-illness and addiction are mixed into one’s life? Behavioral patterns and pathology we can’t see for ourselves or the dark path they lead us down? What then?

“I learned a long time ago that trying to micromanage the perfect vacation is always a disaster. That leads to terrible times.”

anthony bourdain

In the last year and months of his life, Anthony could no longer recognize or self-correct his own micromanaging despite what he said above! Another warning flag raised, this one red. “Terrible times” indeed. Eerie. Self-fulfilling.

If Anthony wasn’t himself recognizing his gradual descent, and lost while subtly reaching out, searching out some form of help, WHY did none of his closest friends, colleagues, or ex’s not see him spiraling deeper and deeper? Was it because like most all of Americans, and perhaps Europeans too, we shy away from mental-illness? In understanding mental-illness intimately, and by doing so will it uncover something(s) too painful, too shameful to admit, to rectify?

For Anthony Bourdain and all inside his inner-circle with the same boldness, courage, and ambition to see, to taste, smell, hear, and learn of so many cultures, to experience fully life’s bounties… I find this child-like fear about the serious reality of mental-illness and addiction to be absurdly ironic! I can’t emphasize enough their paradoxical condition by so many colleagues and friends that loved(?) Anthony! It doesn’t make sense. When someone has obviously become more and more recluse, more agoraphobic (of all glaring things!), something has to be done, especially with the background history Anthony Bourdain openly and bravely shared with the world freely! So how? How did so many friends, ex’s, kitchen-table colleagues, and extended family miss so many warning flags?

“When I die, I will decidedly not be regretting missed opportunities for a good time. My regrets will be more along the lines of a sad list of people hurt, people let down, assets wasted, and advantages squandered.”

anthony bourdain

That painful opportunity missed by his closest friends and work colleagues to help stop Anthony not go out dead like Jeff Heston (Charles Bronson) in the 1970 Italian film, Violent City, will be what haunts the friends and colleagues dearest to him. In one short scene of Roadrunner, Courtney Sexton (I believe?), the CNN executive producer who for years worked with Bourdain, states quite assuredly that ‘we’ll never fully understand why Anthony took his own life.’ No! I could not disagree more vehemently with Sexton. You, Courtney Sexton were part of the tragedy, the fear and ignorance that let Bourdain slip down more and more into his bottomless hole each month, each year.

All the signs, alarms, and warning flags were there, plain as day. And it doesn’t take a 30-year experienced psychiatrist to see them. Some key facts and information easily learned about psychology and addiction, coupled inside continuing mental-illness awareness most likely would’ve saved Bourdain from the black-hole he was falling into. Of this, I am convinced had just one or two of his dearest friends been adequately educated with mental-health/illness. No one needs a Ph.D. or Masters in the field to help someone get professional help. It is literally as easy as boiling an egg or brewing coffee.

“You’re probably going to find out about this anyway, so here’s a little preëmptive truth-telling,” Bourdain says, in disembodied voice-over, in the [Roadrunner] movie’s first few minutes. “There’s no happy ending.”

helen rosner – the new yorker, july 15, 2021 at https://www.newyorker.com/culture/annals-of-gastronomy/the-haunting-afterlife-of-anthony-bourdain

Mental-health & Crisis Suicide Resources

My mother and I are and have been NIMH members since 1992. Their website and resources are a good place to start your extended education about mental-health and illness as well as removing the national stigma surrounding mental-illness. Click on the NIMH link to learn more. Mental-illness is as common in society and all families as regular disagreements or bad kitchen recipes, I assure you. There’s no justifiable reason to avoid it. Please suspend any fears or insecurities and find out how to save a life!

Inside the U.S. there is a hotline by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or at 1-800-273-8255. Help is available 24/7, 365 days a year.

If you live outside the United States and need support/help concerning mental-illness and/or crisis-suicide prevention, here’s a webpage listing organizations, websites, and phone numbers by country: Crisis Information, Help & Support.

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