At a Toastmasters meeting several years ago, I had to make an impromptu two minute speech on the topic “If you could be anyone in the world , who would you rather be ?” I remember saying that I’d like to be Michael Gilbert .
The name may not be familiar to many people these days ; let me explain. Michael Gilbert ( 1912-2006) was a prolific and accomplished British writer of mysteries, thrillers, TV series and plays. The possessor of a smooth, seemingly effortless style, he was honored by the Mystery Writers of America with the Grand Master of Crime Award. But it was more than his writing abilities that I admired.The man was a winner in every aspect of his life. After serving with distinction in the British Army during WW II, he returned home to marry his childhood sweetheart and become a lawyer. He quickly became a partner in a London law firm and lived happily with his wife and four daughters in Kent. He passed away at age 84 in 2006 after a long life filled with accomplishment and fulfillment. Who would not want to be like him ?
However, now that Michael Gilbert has passed on, I thought I should cast about for someone to take his place. After some thought, I settled on Anthony Bourdain, a former chef who has morphed ( cloned ?) into a successful writer and TV personality.I first heard of him as the owner-chef at Les Halles, a Manhattan eatery which experience he parlayed into a best selling book Kitchen Confidential. In short order, he wrote a couple of well received mysteries , food/travel reminscences and a cookbook and became a TV fixture first with A Cook’s Tour and now No Reservations. In the course of his TV shows he gets to travel to exotic foreign locales and eat fabulous meals.What bliss ! What I like about him is that he is a free spirit who is willing to try anything and is unafraid to speak his mind.
In a recent piece in Men’s Journal he discloses some of his likes and dislikes and I was gratified to find that we have some things in common. His favorite drink is beer ( as is mine ) though he is also partial to a Negroni ( gin, vermouth and Campari). He doesn’t believe in taking photos on his travels because ‘ it’s not adequate.”I couldn’t agree more. On my travels I’ve stopped taking photos or buying souvenirs. Far better, as Bourdain says , to take home the memory. His favorite reading , when he’s looking for escape, is crime and mystery novels . ( Mine too). Also, like me, he loves spicy Asian chilies and herbs and Thai food.
There are a couple of things where we don’t see eye to eye. I gave up smoking 25 years ago but he smokes like a chimney. On his TV show , he seems to either have a cigarette in his mouth or about to reach for one and I worry about the state of his lungs. Secondly he has a thing about tattoos. I know he got one while he was in Malaysia a couple of seasons ago ; two months ago he apparently got a tiki band tattoo in the Marquesas. ” Tattoos are the best mementos “, he says. I don’t share his fascination. Tattoos are permanent and I can’t see marking up my body up like that. And now that I think about it, I don’t think I’d enjoy eating raw seal meat.You know what….
On second thought, I’d rather be me.