BOTH ENDS BURNING
Eight shows into production for our seventh season of No Reservations with a whole bunch more to come. That’s a lot of years of traveling around the world, stuffing food and liquor into my face. Eight shows shot already and ready to go–or still being tended to carefully in a nerdly warren of editing rooms. In between shoots, I’ve been bouncing around the country doing public speaking gigs, something that over time, becomes more like a stand-up routine than anything resembling a “talk”. Talk for two hours a night, forty or more times a year in front of a large audience, you quickly find yourself learning a skill set you never thought you’d want or need. You repeat yourself, like a comedian, working the same lines, adjusting the timing, changing a word here and there–altering delivery–and hopefully, slowly working out the old and trying out the new.
It’s been tough at times, up at five off to a plane, a car, Easton, Glenside, Coral Springs, Red Bank, Stamford, Hershey, Norfolk, Tallahassee. Started writing this in a delayed plane on the tarmac in Lauderdale, waiting for clearance from Atlanta, wrote some more on another plane, will probably finish it somewhere between Cerritos, Palm Desert and Modesto. Somewhere in the middle there, I had a few hours of date night with my wife and way too much sake . My daughter cried when she saw I was leaving again and I feel guilty and horribly hungover. End of this run of appearances, I’m ditching as much of everything and anything I’ve ever said before and concentrating on a new presentation. . And I’ll be cutting back significantly on the whole live in concert thing in general. Enough is enough. I don’t ever want to hear my daughter crying “Daddy, Daddy!…..” again as I walk down the hall to the elevator. The show is one thing. I go away, I come back, I stay for a while. But touring like this? One concrete suicide dressing room after another, another chain hotel room, trying to maintain the right balance between the Red Bull (for fatigue) and the beer (for stage jitters and nervousness) necessary to not “die” out there in front of 1,500-2000 people. Cause they let you know right away if they’re not enjoying you. And believe me, that’s somewhere you don’t want to be–twisting slowly in the wind, struggling for words, in front of an audience who are beginning to deeply regret having paid the egregious price of their tickets.
On a good day–and there are many, I get to see exactly who is reading my books–and watching my shows, and I hear from them directly. It’s amazing how intimately people are acquainted with the misadventures of Zamir, how they seem to cherish best my most painful and embarrassing moments. It’s inspiring, though, how many distinguished looking ladies and gentlemen of years enjoy a good felching joke. The weird swings of demographics is nice to see: One night, forty percent of the audience will be Filipino-Americans, the next mostly alienated, college age men, next, mostly women, many of whom appear to have dressed for the event. Mondays are usually restaurant people–you can smell the garlic and onions and salmon in the air–and they’re always a rowdy bunch. Next night–inexplicably–it’s golfers or drunks. You never know. An awful lot of people seem to be watching No Reservations–and most of them, it appears, by stumbling across re-runs, DVRing, downloading it legally or otherwise, renting from Netflix or iTunes. Which is all good by me.
The fine folks at Swiffer maybe not so much.
Nicaragua, the Ozarks, Hokkaido, Cambodia, Boston, Vienna, the Brazilian Amazon and Haiti are in the can . Haiti is airing first–as our season premier: Monday, February 28th. 9PM EST. It’s a ballsy choice for the network. As Haiti, having suffered ,only one year ago,a massive earthquake that killed nearly 300,000 people, more recent difficulties with cholera, and the all too regular afflictions of poverty, corruption and political turmoil is not a happy-go-lucky show. Our friends at eater.com will have difficulty finding a good dick joke for their regular “Quotable Bourdain” feature. But like our first Beirut show, it’s an episode I’m very proud of. And I’m grateful to the network for choosing this, above others, to lead off with. On the subject of gratitude, I can hardly give words to how important Sean Penn was to the show or how helpful. Above and beyond showing us around the tent city of 55,000 souls that he helped found and continues to help administer, and explaining to us articulately and with real passion the complex needs and problems of a country in desperate need of a break, he pointed us to the incredible artist’s colony in the middle of densely packed maze of crumbling, cobbled together shacks in an inner city shantytown. Here, in total obscurity–and with barely a hope in the world of ever selling a single work, amazing craftsmen are making art every day. They live in tiny sheds. A bed surrounded by stacks and stacks of their work, most covered in dust.
And for the helicopter shot that closes the show. That was Sean’s idea too–without realizing it. Talking about the situation, he described how he’d felt, the first time he’d seen Port au Prince from above– a suggestion we took– and his remarks resonated later in the editing room. As you’ll see, it ended up making a very powerful end to the show.
In addition to the kick-off to our seventh season, we are approaching another landmark: 1,000,000 Facebook “Likes” . I thought of this while watching David Fincher’s brilliant SOCIAL NETWORK recently; that scene where the offices of Facebook get all excited when they hit a million users. I saw that film and started paying attention to our numbers. And as of this writing, it’s getting mighty close. Feel free to help getting us over the hump. Having fully embraced the interactive world of Facebook, twitter, live streaming, tumblr et al, and hijacking my accounts, I find myself living in a strange and wonderful new world. One in which I talk to my wife, it seems, on twitter nearly as much as in person, bust Ripert’s balls while he’s skiing in Park City, hear from Batali while he’s chowing down on crab in Singapore–and communicate with my audience out front while I finish my last beer before showtime backstage. I have learned already the perils of drunk tweeting.
Any other news? Yes. Season two of the great HBO series TREME starts soon. Be sure to watch. I’m doing some writing and consulting on the show and can assure you, without violating any confidentiality agreement, that it’s going to be a very very foodie season. Hi-test shit.
Also be absolutely sure to pre-order chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s amazing memoir BLOOD, BONES AND BUTTER. A book I think mops up the floor with Kitchen Confidential. Shockingly good.
GET JIRO, the graphic novel I wrote with Joel Rose and illustrated by the incredible Langdon Foss, is looking really, really breathtakingly good. The art is…well…you’ll just have to see it to believe it. That’ll be coming out NEXT year, I’m told, so my dreams of ComiCon this year will have to be deferred till next.
An I’ll be appearing as “Biff” in the Coral Gables Dinner Theater Production of “Death of a Salesman” with Joe Piscopo and Frankie Munoz.
That last thing is NOT true.