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Friday, June 8, 2018

How Anthony Bourdain Remembered Cleveland and Harvey Pekar

Posted By on Fri, Jun 8, 2018 at 8:50 AM

Anthony Bourdain is dead at the age of 61 from an apparent suicide. The celebrated author and TV star was found in his hotel room in France, where he was filming a new episode for his CNN show.

What's striking this morning, even in the few hours since the news of his death, is the universal outpouring from around the world of people referencing interviews or episodes about their locale and saying, "He got us. He nailed it." That's a stunning accomplishment and legacy, one more impressive on a human than professional level, and it doesn't come without a genuine curiosity of and compassion for your fellow man, no matter where he lives. For Bourdain, they were all his fellow men and women.

Cleveland is no different. Here's how Bourdain remembered Harvey Pekar, who appeared on the Cleveland episode of No Reservations in 2007, after the local legend's death.

His continuing compulsion to wonder what's wrong with everybody else was both source of entertainment and the only position of conscience a man could take.

After all, Cleveland, the city he lived in and loved, had, he reminded us, lost half its population since the 1950s. A place whose great buildings and bridges and factories had once exemplified 20th century optimism needed its Harvey Pekar.

"What went wrong here?" is an unpopular question with the type of city fathers and civic boosters for whom convention centers and pedestrian malls are the answers to all society's ills but Harvey captured and chronicled every day what was—and will always be—beautiful about Cleveland: the still majestic gorgeousness of what once was—the uniquely quirky charm of what remains, the delightfully offbeat attitude of those who struggle to go on in a city they love and would never dream of leaving.

What a two minute overview might depict as a dying, post-industrial town, Harvey celebrated as a living, breathing, richly textured society.

A place so incongruously and uniquely...seductive that I often fantasize about making my home there. Though I've made television all over the world, often in faraway and "exotic" places, it's the Cleveland episode that is my favorite—and one about which I am most proud.
If he's said or written similar things about other cities, maybe every other city, it wouldn't be a surprise. It would actually be more surprising if he didn't. 

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