[Marxism] Anthony Bourdain on Harvey Pekar

johnaimani johnaimani at earthlink.net
Fri Jul 16 20:58:14 MDT 2010

  I watch Bourdain often.  My girlfriend and I even saw him recently at 
UCLA where he gave a one-man show.  The episode from his show he did on 
the 'border' w Mexico was just about the best argument for open borders 
I've seen.

Though he takes potshots at the former 'communist' regimes in Eastern 
Europe, if I judged from a non-partisan point of view, what he said 
about them was pretty much correct.

This show may be on television and the guy may now be a 'celebrity chef' 
but what I dig about the show is that wherever he goes, the first thing 
he looks for is what are the locals eating.  And he eats with ordinary 
people enjoying ordinary but extraordinary foods.  "Go where there is a 
line" is his mantra and that is probably the best advice that any 
traveler to an unfamiliar spot can receive.

The Cleveland episode I saw only once (and part of the way into it as a 
matter of fact) but the graphics were outstanding: city scenes faded 
into art. It would cheapethe graphics if I compared it to Leroy Neiman's 
abstracted sports.  I would like to see it again (especially) now that 
the below has tipped me off to Mr Pekar.

As I said, I watch the show almost every week (even re-runs which are 
the majority of the time) and if I spot the Cleveland episode and/or the 
one on the border I will post a notice in this spot.

Thanks for this.


On 11:59 AM, Louis Proyect wrote:
> (Anthony Bourdain has a show on the travel cable channel specializing 
> on local cuisines, more or less in line with the sort of thing that 
> Calvin Trillin does in print.)
> http://anthony-bourdain-blog.travelchannel.com/read/the-original-goodbye-splendor?fbid=F15V9nfu-Ld 
> The Original (Goodbye Splendor)
> A few days ago, the city of Cleveland lost a truly great and important 
> man. And I'm not talking about LeBron James. A hundred years from now, 
> few--other than a few sports nerds--will remember him as much more 
> than statistics on a long ago basketball court.
> They will, however, remember Harvey Pekar, whose life and works will 
> surely remain an enduring reference point of late 20th and early 21st 
> century cultural history. Like those other giants of their eras, 
> Twain, Whitman, Dos Passos, Kerouac, Kesey, the times he lived in 
> cannot adequately be remembered without him.
> It is true enough to say that he was the "poet laureate of Cleveland" 
> or to describe his American Splendor as "Homeric", but those 
> descriptives are still inadequate. He was the perfect man for his 
> times, straddling...everything: the underground comic revolution of 
> the 60's, the creation and transformation of the graphic novel, 
> independent film, television, music (the classic jazz he championed 
> relentlessly throughout his life).
> He was famed as a "curmudgeon", a "crank" and a "misanthrope" yet 
> found beauty and heroism where few others even bothered to look. In a 
> post-ironic and post-Seinfeldian universe he was the last 
> romantic--his work sincere, heartfelt, alternately dead serious and 
> wryly affectionate. The last man standing to wonder out loud, "what 
> happened here?"
> 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 it's 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.
> That show was unique among over a hundred others in that 
> everything--absolutely everything--went perfectly and exactly as 
> planned. Unlike every other episode, pretty much everything had been 
> "written" (or at least planned out) in advance: the look, the American 
> Splendor graphics, destinations, subjects and content. In the middle 
> of a blizzard in the dead of winter, we got exactly what we were 
> looking for. We wanted American Splendor and that's what we got.
> This is due entirely to Harvey (and the incredible Joyce). Harvey may 
> have had a reputation as cantankerous, TV-averse and difficult but 
> from the very first minute he and his family were a delight. They 
> opened up their lives to us in every way they could. They were exactly 
> as they appeared in the great graphic novels and in the film--only 
> warmer and even nicer.
> The look, the tone, the sound, the whole feel of the episode that 
> followed was Harvey's. There was a moment at Sokolowski's I'll always 
> remember as quintessential Pekar--that perfectly encapsulated the way 
> we all felt absorbed in to PekarWorld. We'd just finished shooting a 
> scene with Harvey, Toby Radloff and Michael Ruhlman--and Danielle, 
> Harvey's daughter, who'd been hanging out off- camera, temporarily 
> went missing--out of Harvey's watchful gaze. I remember looking at 
> him, swiveling his head frantically, the very picture of parental 
> concern and exasperation and actually SEEING comic book curlicues, 
> exclamation points, question marks and smoke emanating from his head. 
> He had made the world around him his world. We were--all of us-- just 
> passing through.
> A few great artists come to "own" their territory.
> As Joseph Mitchell once owned New York and Zola owned Paris, Harvey 
> Pekar owned not just Cleveland but all those places in the American 
> Heartland where people wake up every day, go to work, do the best they 
> can--and in spite of the vast and overwhelming forces that conspire to 
> disappoint them--go on, try as best as possible to do right by the 
> people around them, to attain that most difficult of ideals: to be 
> "good" people.
> "Our man" as Harvey often referred to himself in his work, was a good 
> man. An important man. A "great American" is an expression that has 
> been cheapened with over-use, but if these words ever meant anything, 
> they surely describe Harvey Pekar.
> He was great. He was American.
> For him to have come from anywhere else would be unthinkable. He will 
> be remembered. He will be missed.

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