Of course, from the time we’re old enough to look around and see how others live, we guys develop a certain envy for what other guys have in their lives. I suppose it stops a bit short of “bromance,” a linguistic blend of two words to create a new meaning that dates to the 1990s, when Dave Carnie, then the editor of the skateboard magazine Big Brother, combined “brother” and “romance” to refer to the tight bond that develops between skaters who spend a great deal of time practicing their passion, but it’s certainly a longing to do the things others do.
For many of us guys, our first near-bromances were with sports figures. For me, it was Mickey Mantle, the Yankee centerfielder whose combination of speed and power in my early days in the late 1950s thrilled me.
As time passed, I began to broaden my world to consider others who deserved my envy when it came to how they were living. And, even long before I had the time and the ancillary income to put toward traveling and addressing that wanderlust that I realized was a part of me at an early age, I was drawn to those who did indeed travel.
Mark Twain became my favorite author as soon as I knew enough about him to know the extent to which he traveled and the role those travels played in his best works, books like “The Innocents Abroad,” “Roughing It,” and, of course, “Life on the Mississippi.”
On television in the 1960s, I discovered Charles Kuralt, the American journalist who enjoyed a long career with CBS in his “On the Road” segments, and he became the object of my envy as well.
For those of you who may not remember Kuralt, who retired from CBS at the height of his popularity at just 60 years old in 1994, before his early death due to complications from lupus just three years after his retirement, he had the most tenure of any on-air CBS personality. His résumé included 25 years worth of “On the Road” installments when he would board his motor home with a small film crew and travel America’s back roads looking for stories to salt and pepper his life and hoping there were those out there, like me, who lived vicariously through his sojourns.
These days, my newest partner in long-distance bromance is Anthony Bourdain, in many ways the more sophisticated latter-day spawn of Twain and Kuralt. Bourdain benefits from the advances in travel, which allows him to see the farthest corners of the world and show them to me in CNN’s series “Parts Unknown.”
He first achieved fame as a chef and knows such things as not to order fish in a restaurant on Mondays (unless it’s a coastal restaurant) because he knows there’s a good chance the fish ordered off the menu on Monday was purchased by the restaurant the Thursday before. He travels both domestically and internationally, both literally and figuratively consuming and imbibing cultures so very different from his native New Jersey locale.
Bourdain used the culinary as a springboard, first to food-and-travel writing and then to TV. I first picked him up about a decade ago on the Travel Channel in his precursor to “Parts Unknown,” “No Reservations.”
For me, I think the reason he’s become my modern-day Kuralt goes beyond his travels. It’s also his personality, which is far spicier than the reserved Kuralt’s was. He’s essentially unrepentant about a life lived in experimental fashion and has been no stranger in dabbling in most of life’s forbidden pleasures.
Yes, my bro-mates in the literary and electronic media have long been those who wanted to see as many of life’s diamond-like facets and glory in them as possible, and for that to happen, they weren’t averse to taking to the road. And, while I still can, that’s what I want to do as well, before the saddest of old age’s many melancholies descend, and that is when physical limitations and perhaps mental regressions make travel nothing more than a memory when the world shrinks almost to the size of a phone booth.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected]