Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Bourdain Quatrain

Scott D. Parker

(My normal Friday routine has been thrown off with the first of two performances tonight in my church play. I thought I'd update a post from my personal blog I wrote back in 2009 and see what everyone has to contribute.)

Every Monday night, I have sex with my television.

That's probably crude, but it's the best way I can describe the visceral reaction I get when I watch Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" on the Travel Channel. Each week, the former chef and current author showcases a country or a city and finds those out-of-the-way places where truly good food lives. I could have just devoured a seven course meal with me burping out the extra gases and I'd *still* want to eat whatever Bourdain's eating. The show (and the photography) is just that good.

During the intro of the show, you hear Bourdain's mission statement: "I travel. I write. I eat. And I'm hungry for more." I marvel at his ability to distill his life down to four sentences. Makes me wonder about the other parts of his life (wife? child?) that he leaves out.

And each week I start thinking about my own four lines. What would I write? I revel in being a husband and a father. What would those be? I husband. I sire(d). Not very poetic. The former sounds too much like taking care of farm animals and my wife definitely is not a farm animal.

I love listening to music and find an immense amount of enjoyment and satisfaction from music (listening to KISS's Sonic Boom as I edit this). However, "I listen" is not very exciting and mostly something that's passive even if I do play steering-wheel guitar doing seventy along the tollway, windows down, music blasting.

I write but my output in recent days/weeks has been anemic. However, I'm modestly turning that output around. Nonetheless, it's how I see myself (day job = technical writer; future job = published author) so I'll go ahead and keep "I write". No, I'm not copying Bourdain.

I read. A lot. So, I guess I'd better put that in there. Two down. One line to go.

Back to the husband/father thing: I love being a dad and a husband. It's one of the things that defines me so it has to stay. The one thing that cements these two different halves of my emotional output is love. It's the love that makes my days so happy and blessed. When it comes to life, I'm an optimist largely because I have a big heart. Okay, so I guess what I'm saying, cheesy though it may be, is that "I love" is likely the third part of this little exercise.

I love. I read. I write.

What about the last line? We writers always try for the trick ending, the Twilight-Zone-esque gotcha that leaves readers smiling, frowning, or hurling the book across the room. You know what I mean, right? I hated the ending of Heminway's A Farewell to Arms but I still remember it. And, yes, I did throw it across the room. Anyway, Bourdain's last line is a gotcha ending. It's his riding-into-the-sunset moment. He's not content to sit and be. He's still searching, as I do. However, he uses the word "hungry," a word with dual meaning for him, a chef, a writer, and a traveler.

What could my closing line be? I could be corny and say "And I'll write my own ending" but that rubs up against some major theological issues. In that spirit, however, is this sentiment: I'm eager to turn the page on life, to see what's next for me. This acting thing was certainly a bolt out of the blue. I know what I want, but I'll accept what comes. So, to be writerly, I'll settle for "And I'm eager to turn the next page." Like any good page turner, I want to know what happens next. But I don't want life to go by too fast. I want to savor each day.

Thus, as of today, I'll sum up my life with this four lines: I love. I read. I write. And I'm eager to turn the next page.

So, what might your quatrain be?

Tweet of the Week:

RT: How much of that 16 hours is actually done writing as opposed to prep work? ... Probably 60 percent writing.

-- Peter King, NFL writer for Sports Illustrated

During the NFL season, my favorite thing is to watch the Houston Texans play. My second favorite activity is to read anything King writes. I find him to be one of the more literate, personable, knowledgeable writers on the NFL currently working. If you watch the game on NBC every Sunday, King's there, too.

The 16 hours in question is the length of time King takes to write his Monday Morning Quarterback column on He sums up the previous day's games and the week in football with finesse and massive knowledge. Considering the last game ends around 11pm EST, King's just getting down to business as I'm turning in for the night. I'm not sure how late he stays up each Sunday night, but his 8,000-10,000-word column is ready around 9am EST Monday.

Remarkable. It speaks to me as a writer when I fret that I spend too much time preparing to write than actually writing. While nothing beats banging out prose--even prose you'll throw away--I still enjoy and need the prep work.

For any NFL fan reading this, set aside some time each Monday to read King's column. You will not be disappointed, and you will learn more than you think. If you want to follow him on Twitter, he is SI_PeterKing.

Now, if the Texans can win on Sunday, they might find their way back into King's Fine 15.

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