Monday, April 30, 2018

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain "Trump, God, and Guns"

Anthony Bourdain's "Trump, God, and Guns," set in  McDowell County, West Virginia, the kickoff to his new season of "Parts Unknown," left me dispirited. That's not because the Appalachian cuisine featured seemed less appetizing than the complex noodle dishes Bourdain regularly savors in other parts unknown, since the  deep fried Appalachian rabbit — never mind it was farm raised — promised pleasures of its own.

No, it's because the gulf between the likes of Bourdain and the good people of McDowell County seemed immeasurable, nonnegotiable — even unspeakable, at least by the usually voluble Bourdain. And as the show establishes, they are good people — if you're one of them. From football to cooking — "Let us now say grace," which they do for both endeavors — they know and look after each other, as if they have since forever.

But there are paradoxes, including the ubiquitous love of guns, including fully automatic machine guns. It's not mostly about rabbit or squirrel hunting, though it might have begun there. No, they raise their rabbits. They just like to shoot. They say they want to be able to protect themselves. But if, as seems to be, they are such good neighbors, what exactly are they protecting themselves from? Not crime, surely, no mention of which is made in the show.

Then what?

It's a culture unto itself, and Bourdain can't seem to crack or honestly speak to it. I've never seen him so awkward, tongue-tied, maybe even frightened. He's relieved if not grateful they take him in, share with and say grace with him, even though he's the kind of New Yorker whose lifestyle refutes and contradicts so many of their values.

Another paradox is Trump. Another New Yorker. Nothing remotely salt of the earth about Trump. Yet they see him as one of their own. They embrace and close ranks around him.

Bourdain sputters in response to that.

I'm not sure what I would have done in his place, not sure what I would have said.

Maybe I would have skipped the whole discordant, inassimilable W. Virginia venue. Or maybe I would have solved all the "Let's Say Grace" occasions by saying, no disrespect,  I'm Jewish, that's not my prayer.

Or maybe I would have said the kind of thing that would have roused the good people of McDowell County to drop their good manners and become unpleasant.

I don't know that I could have stopped myself.

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