Remembering Anthony Bourdain

Bourdain

We share a name, Anthony Michael, and he was the embodiment of my aspirations.  He understood that food was a portal to people’s stories, their pride, their memories, and their happiness.  Through food, he could draw someone out of their protective shell.

My greatest moments are when I make connections with the world.  Throughout my travels, it is never the museum or the beach that I remember best, it is the impromptu gathering, the chance encounter with a local–a connection–that I did not anticipate.

Food is often the medium for these connections and Anthony Bourdain understood this better than anyone. He seemed to appreciate the simplest foods, noodles, raw fish, or a fried bit of some lowly creature; and, I think it was because that food led to a deeper world.  It was never just the food on the plate, it was always about where he was, with whom he enjoyed it, and the complete context of the meal.

I read Kitchen Confidential almost as soon as it came out in 2000.  What captured me from the start was what a gifted writer he was.  He was in one of the first classes at Vassar, to allow men, and went on to become a badass chef in a New York City restaurant.  He was also a rare example of someone who had beaten a heroin addiction.   He had wanderlust, and a worldview that contained an exquisite blend of reverence and irreverence.  But most of all, the guy could tell a story.  It was his writing skills that catapulted him into stardom.

I have never forgotten one great example of this, when he spoke of how rude he found vegetarians, speaking mostly tongue in cheek about how hard chefs work to create a dish  and for someone to simply exclude an entire category of the menu from their diet!  He then continued with this unforgettable line, “the only group ruder than the vegetarians is their Hezbollah-like splinter group, the vegans.”  He could turn a phrase and he did not mince words!

I watched him use food as a stepping stone to get to the real story, someone’s upbringing that made this food a fond memory, their struggles with oppressive governments, he had a way of penetrating their barriers, and he used food as his port of entry.

We are fortunate that he left a sizable body of work, available constantly and for free on Youtube, the internet, etc.  I will return often for inspiration.  He has already inspired me to explore “parts unknown” such as Viet Nam, Morocco, and the less touristy sides of Los Angeles, and Detroit.

Much will be said of his suicide, and the pain that follows for those left behind.  There will be speculation on his state of mind, missed warning signs etc.  I am not qualified to comment on any of that.

What I am qualified to comment on is the impact he had on my life.  I did not consciously set out to emulate Anthony Bourdain, but my blog developed initially as a food blog, and evolved into more of a travel blog.  If you explore the pages of tonemanblog you will find that increasingly I sought that connection with the places I visited rather than just a survey of the best hotels and restaurants.

I am not the writer that he was, but he gave me such validation that I was following a worthy path in using food to gain entry to people’s lands, their history, and their souls.  I am so very grateful for all that Anthony Bourdain produced, and I will continue down the path he blazed.

It has been a couple years since my blog was active, and recently I enjoyed some fabulous travel to Morocco and Portugal, all in the same spirit that AB would have pursued. I will use his departure from this world as a milestone to resume blogging, and I hope whoever follows tonemanblog finds some hint of “the Bourdain” in my work.

TT

ToneManBlog is Returning!

After a 2 year hiatus, the ToneManBlog is returning.  I’ve been traveling and enjoying lots of great food and drink and realized I could be sharing all this!  Stay tuned, I’m updating my website and will have some new posts out this summer!

Rambling, Listening, Celebrating and Reflecting in Louisiana (part one of the LA and MS road trip)

A re-post from my friend MIchael who has embarked on a rare adult gap year. Man are you off to a great start!

50 States of Rambling, Listening, Celebrating and Reflecting

Rambling – Louisiana was the perfect state to launch my gap year.  We had already planned a family gathering to attend VoodooFest, a three-day long music and art festival held the weekend before Halloween.  When we left New Orleans a week later sated and exhausted, Linda and I ventured through Cajun country and then on to Mississippi.  1,000 miles later we were back at the Louis Armstrong airport heading home for Thanksgiving and a countdown to my first cross country trip that will start the week after and likely last three months.

There is no way to convey the profusion of experiences from this first trek but I’ve highlighted what I wouldn’t want to miss below, included books I read in the sidebar, and detailed the route on this planning site (see the map on the righthand side).

A great joy of rambling is simply staring out of car…

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2015 in Review…and a Preview of 2016

Happy New Year!

I love the week of transition from Christmas into the new year and this year with the holidays falling on Friday it seems to afford more time for reflection and planning.

Like any year, there were highs and lows in 2015 and we’ve seen how DC–and the military especially–marks important occasions.  You may recall I started 2015 at Arlington National Cemetery with the beginning of my Ten DC Walks series.  Sadly, my wife Alice and I ended 2015 there, but this time for a burial service.  In early December a friend of ours was laid to rest with military honors.

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We ended the year honoring our friend Don Gaddy who received military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

One week later I would be back in almost the same spot as a young West Point graduate whom we have known since he was in kindergarten got married at the Old Chapel at Ft. Myers.

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We also ended the year celebrating the marriage of our friend Tyler Kellogg whom we’ve known for 20 years and his new bride Gemma. His wedding was at Ft. Myers which is adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery.

The Blog

I set out at the beginning of 2015 with a goal of 50 postings.  On New Year’s Eve I posted number 43, so I didn’t quite achieve my goal, but I got pretty close.  I re-vamped the blog site itself to re-energize both my blog and with it my perspective.

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While this chart says “2015” I switched locations in May so these are my stats since the switch. One exciting note, I’m reaching 9 countries outside the US!

I write this blog partly to document my own adventures, a scrapbook of sorts; but, I also do it as an exercise to reflect on them after they happen.  It is my version of “a life examined”, and it has also been a way to connect with people.  I am very grateful to have gained many new readers.  Thank you!  In a couple months I will celebrate the 5th anniversary of my first ever blog post.

I take great pleasure in the ordinary, rarely missing an opportunity to snap a shot of a great sunset, or a new angle on the buildings and monuments I see everyday.  I’m as pleased with a rotisserie chicken as I am with a fine restaurant,  but I am also very fortunate to lead a somewhat extraordinary life thanks in large part to a great job that brings me on lots of travel to excellent places and gives me the means to add more personal travel in my time off.

I have been reluctant to pin myself down to one theme like just “food”, so the blog has slowly morphed into more of a “lifestyle” piece.  A review of this year explains why.  There was so much!  I managed to write 43 posts but easily had enough material for 30 more!  I’m so excited about the things I experience I just have to share them!

I started a few new series, including the 10 DC Walks, and The History in my Grandmother’s Recipe Files.  These will continue and I’m also considering adding a series of “Ten DC Bike Rides” since we have such a great network of trails here.

Please send comments to let me know what you enjoy seeing in the blog and what you want to see more of…and thank you for sharing my blog postings with your friends!

Ahead in 2016…

Ethiopia

I already know about a few things that will happen in 2016.  The biggest on the calendar right now is a February trip to Ethiopia.  I have a college friend who works for a DC-based economic development group and runs their Ethiopia program.  He and his wife visit us in DC a few times each year and have been urging us to visit.  “You should come, you can stay with us, we’ll show you around it will be so much fun!” So, to what I suspect is his great surprise, we have decided to take him up on the offer!

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In February, my wife Alice and I leave for two weeks in Ethiopia

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On New Year’s Eve my close friend Michael and I made a pact to visit 50 different bars together in 2016.  With that will come restaurants too.  Could we have chosen a wiser and healthier pursuit?  Perhaps, but would you want to read about two friends who agreed to visit all the Presidential libraries, or run 50 5k’s?  So stay tuned as we count an average of 4 different bars per month and the hijinks that ensue.

 

 

 

Japan

I also expect to travel to Japan for work sometime in the spring.

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This past year I attended a Fujitsu party in San Francisco where they had a ritual “cask breaking” ceremony to open a cask of sake.  This was very fun!  We drank it from square cedar boxes and went on to eat some really amazing sushi.   IMG_2028

I am a huge fan of adventures like this where someone will be there to guide me through what to see, what to eat, etc.  So if my business takes me to Japan, you can expect some fun-filled postings and great photos from that trip!

 

New England

Meanwhile, I still have a daughter attending college in Maine, and last year’s New England Road Trip was a success in so many ways I think we will have to do “season 2” of the NERT!

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The gorgeous campus of Bates College in Lewiston, Maine will be home to our youngest for a few more years so expect the return of the “New England Road Trip” (photo credit Margaret Trombly)

Guitar

IMG_3726I rather doubt that this will figure into my blog much, but one thing I will be working on in 2016 is improving my guitar skills.  I have been trying to learn for years and being on the road all the time makes it hard to do the one thing required…practice.

So recently I purchased a “travel guitar” which has a regulation sized fretboard but an abbreviated sized body.  It fits in the overhead luggage compartment over my suitcase and when I travel people ask me if it’s a violin, a banjo, a tennis racquet, etc.  I plug headphones into it and practice in my hotel room without bothering the rooms next door.

I have to thank my wonderfully indulgent wife here.  She listens to all of the home practice and has probably heard more crappy 12-bar blues than she cares to.  She endures me talking about it all the time and insisting that she hear some new trick I just learned.  So while you should not expect me to be opening for Eric Clapton anytime soon, I will be diligently practicing throughout 2016!

I will again spend time at the corporate HQ of my company in Arizona and continue to explore all that the Valley of the Sun has to offer.  Likewise, we have offices in Boulder, CO, and in San Antonio, TX so I look forward to another year of exploring those great cities too!

I look forward to many more adventures and excitement in 2016 and wish you all a happy new year!

π

 

2015 in Review…the Music

sThis is the third of four postings in a brief series looking back at 2015.  I love live music and have always admired how 4 people in any given bar on a Saturday night can hold 200 patrons in the palm of their hand.  The DC area has a very strong music scene and lots of small venues that attract excellent talent.

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My musical tastes begin with the Grateful Dead and jam bands in general and this was a great year to be a fan of that music.  The Dead performed a sensational 3-day stand at Soldier Field in Chicago over the 4th of July.  Dubbed “Fare Thee Well” after a song lyric, it was loaded with symbolism and meaning.  Soldier Field was the last venue Jerry Garcia played before he died in 1995.  They opened with “Box of Rain”, the last song they played there, and this year was the 50th anniversary of the band.  I was not able to get to Chicago but did enjoy the simulcast with some friends for a couple of the shows at a favorite local venue.

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The Grateful Dead played to 200,000 people over a 3-day stand at Soldier Field in Chicago. I would end up watching it in a local bar via simulcast.

The one benefit to watching a live event on TV is that you get great “seats” and in the case of Gypsy Sally’s where we saw the shows, great sound too!  For whatever reason, the Dead’s music has always worked for me, and 50 years later I have yet to get sick of it.

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The one benefit to having to watch a simulcast instead of being there was great “seats”

I am also a Phish fan, and was very pleased to see Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio in the role of Jerry.  I thought he did a respectable–and respectful–job and later in the year would see him in Maryland with his own band, Phish.

I freely admit that Phish is an acquired taste, but I love them.  Unlike the Dead’s 50 years, Phish has only been around for 32 years!  This year they played at Merriweather Post Pavilion in suburban Maryland and I went with my son.

There’s no question that the Phish crowd–like the Deadheads–can alienate a more conservative group.  There is some wild behavior to say the least.  Unfortunately, however, that often obscures how good the band and the music are.

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People are so quick to assume a Phish concert is nothing but a bunch of wild young people smoking weed. As this photo plainly illustrates, I found no evidence of this whatsoever.

After the Soldier Field shows, the band–with the exception of Phil Lesh–set out for another tour, this time with John Mayer filling Jerry’s role.  They call themselves Dead & Company and I saw them at DC’s Verizon Center in early November.

With no disrespect to Trey, I was blown away by John Mayer!  He is a great guitarist and played with a LOT of heart; but he went so much further (or should I say, “furthur“) injecting emotion and interpretation that made him appear to be actually channeling Garcia from the great beyond.  He brought a lot of younger fans which didn’t hurt either.  These shows are beginning to be top-heavy with long gray male ponytails!

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Washington, DC’s Verizon Center was packed to the gills and John Mayer brought in a lot of young people.

I had great seats, off to the side of the stage.  The band had the sellout crowd in the palm of their hands and worked it into a lather for nearly three hours.  I am constantly reminded that this music is not everyone’s cup of tea but for me it was the legend of improvised rock-music living on.

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Dead & Company was John Mayer stepping into the role of the late Jerry Garcia with all of the surviving members of the Grateful Dead except bass player Phil Lesh. I think even the most jaded Jerry fan had to give Mayer props for his heart and emotion and impressive talent.

…and other music…

In September the Annual Lock’n Festival took place just outside Charlottesville, VA.  This festival is a jam band paradise!  In one day, from two stages with no break in the music we saw Hot Tuna, the Tedeschi Truck’s Band with guest Bob Weir, Widespread Panic with guest Jimmy Cliff, Phil Lesh and Friends with guests Carlos Santana and Warren Haynes.  It was beautiful weather on a large farm and pretty much the perfect show!

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Susan Tedeschi of Tedeschi Trucks Band was joined by Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir at Lock’n

To see the former Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant was great, but to hear him drive one song into the next with updated versions of the old songs was unbelievable!  To see Carlos Santana playing his heart out on all these old Grateful Dead songs was practically an out-of-body experience!

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Former Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant rocked the farm at Lock’n

It was a diverse year musically, however, and not all Grateful Dead.  One very exciting example of that was when my own company hired the Kevin Eubanks band (formerly of Jay Leno’s Tonight Show) to play our annual Partner Summit.  They would play during breaks between sessions and when speakers would come out on stage Kevin would banter with the speaker for a minute or so before they launched into their presentation.

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The Avnet Partner Summit in Chandler, AZ featured Kevin Eubanks and his band playing between sessions and bantering with speakers as they walked onto the stage!

Gypsy Sally’s is a small music venue in Georgetown, a section of Washington, DC and they feature a lot of great live music.  Recently I saw Amy Helm, daughter of The Band’s Levon Helm.

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Levon Helm’s daughter Amy put on a great show at a local venue, Gypsy Sally’s. Her music was original and her band was great.

In October I attended the Oracle OpenWorld Conference in San Francisco and was treated to an amazing concert!  It is always outdoors on Treasure Island, under the Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland.

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Each year Oracle puts on an amazing concert for attendees of their Oracle OpenWorld conference. Always great weather, always outdoors, the show is held on Treasure Island in the shadow of the Bay Bridge.

This year the acts included Beck with their Grammy-winning unique sound.  That was a great show, but not really the headliner for old guys like myself.

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Beck was an amazing show but for a guy my age, was not the headliner…

No, that was Elton John!  I started toward the front of the crowd and watched Elton perform his legendary Benny and the Jets from about 40 feet away.  The crowd got pretty claustrophobic however and I moved back to my company’s reserved seats.

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Sir Elton John

He did every song I could think of.  He played for a solid two hours and left almost nothing unplayed (except the Disney stuff…thankfully).  To see a hero of my youth perform Rocket Man, Benny, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, Daniel, Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, Crocodile Rock, Harmony, Your Song, Philadelphia Freedom, it just went on and on!!!!

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At 68 years old, Elton John’s piano playing is stronger than ever, and he puts on a hell of a show!

There were many other small local bands I was fortunate enough to see.  I am always impressed at how any bar in any town can feature really talented musicians.  I myself have been trying to learn guitar for years and can’t even get my left hand to cooperate with my right!

2015 was an extraordinary year musically and I am looking forward to more next year.

I wish you all Happy New Year, and will post once more tomorrow to close out this series with a sneak peek at what’s in store for 2016!

π

2015 in Review…the Travel

It’s been a little while since I posted to my blog, mostly due to being so busy with work, the holidays, and a really busy life.  So I went back through my photos to see what I had missed in the fall and holiday season.  What I found was that I had missed a lot all year! (more…)

Autumn in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley

“We headed west into the Virginia countryside with no set plan but to enjoy the fall weather and all that the Old Dominion had to offer!”

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Manhattan: The Rooftops of Tribeca and the Financial District at Night

On the way home from our New England Road Trip we had to go from Maine to Virginia.  We decided this called for an overnight at the halfway mark in New York.   (more…)

New England Road Trip – Final Destination, Bates College

This post is the final posting in the series, New England Road Trip. (Photo credit for cover photo:  Margaret Trombly)

After 5 days of roaming around New England, visiting, sight-seeing and enjoying some vacation time, at long last we arrived at the main destination of the trip.

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New England Road Trip – Camden, Maine

This posting is part of the series New England Road Trip.IMG_1369

After 5 days of ambling through New England states, sightseeing, visiting, eating and drinking, it was almost time to meet up with our daughter Margaret,  pack up her dorm room and bring her back home to Virginia.

First, however, we had one more stop, one more cousin to visit and one more gorgeous oceanside town in Maine…

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