Anthony Bourdain, a piece of cake, and a tattoo in Berlin. A modern fable.

I’ve been traveling seriously since I was 15, the son of two airline workers, way back when companion passes actually meant something. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to visit every continent and many cities, and on occasion, when the trip is beyond special, I tend to get some ink put in me locally, so I can see where I’ve been in the mirror. This was one of those times.

My best friend Brad Stuart and I had just won a contest with the (now) infamous WOW Air; they were sending us around the world for 2 months to make travel films for them, many of them you are watching now. We were literally living our dream, becoming our own personal Anthony Bourdain’s, who we tried to model our lives after. Then, all of the sudden, our guru of travel took his own life, right in the middle of our trip, and sent us in a strange, dark spiral.

Nothing seemed to make sense those days following his death. We simply couldn’t understand how someone we looked up to, who we thought lived the life perfected, was so tormented that he would end his own life. It really, truly destroyed us, and making daily videos about how great travel is seemed to take on a strange burden and sour tone.

Then, as if in a dream, I remembered the one time I met my idol at a mixer in NYC. It was in a restaurant downtown, I was invited through a chef friend of mine, and honestly didn’t even know Bourdain was going to be there. I was at a window with a beautiful piece of cake, plated perfectly, that seemed to glow in the street light through the window. I placed it on the bank, and took out my phone, and started to take pictures of it, trying to capture how very perfect it was, feeling the need to share it immediately on social media. I must have been doing it for a pretty long time, because I felt this wall of a human standing next to me just staring. It was Anthony Bourdain, holding a similar piece of half eaten cake, staring at me. Half smiling, half disgusted, in a way he could only pull off, he opened his mouth.

“Hey.” he said in a velvet tone, “just eat the cake.” and walked away. 

I laughed at myself. Just eat the cake. Here I was so absorbed in this pastry I didn’t even realize my idol was in the room a foot away from me. I was so absorbed by this ridiculous pastry that I forgot to be in the moment. Just eat the cake. It struck me like lighting and immediately reminded me to enjoy life, to not overthink it, to just, well, eat the damn cake.

I stopped being perplexed by Bourdain’s suicide and decided to take his advice and just eat the cake.

It was in Berlin that I reached out to Michelle Nicole who was doing a residency at a cool little ink parlor in the ReuterKiez called Toe Loop. I had seen her work on Insta and felt an immediate connection. I explained what I was after and she made time for me. There, in the back of the parlor, I laid down and let her throw ink into my right bicep, a pretty little slice of cake, that now always catches my eye when my arm swings down the street. A happy little reminder to not overthink the world, to not put too much importance in what you find sacred, and to always just enjoy the moment because at the end of the day it’s just cake. Just fucking eat it.

Thanks Anthony, thanks Michelle, thanks buddy Brad, and thanks for reading.