TELL ME WHO
Until last night, I’d never seen a single episode of Parts Unknown. I know, I know. In my defense, you probably hadn’t heard about The Great British Baking Show until you binged five seasons over Thanksgiving. And if you had, you haven’t watched Better Things, which is definitely the best show on TV (don’t @ me.)
I finally caught an episode and it was great. Actually, to be clear, I saw the end of “The Greek Islands” (episode 1, season 7) and a single sentence — a tossed-off one-liner by a random character — was incredible.
Bourdain picked Greece because “he wanted to get away from it all.” But after a couple of days alone at a gorgeous rented villa, he was bored and posed the lofty question, “is it worse to be someplace awful when you're by yourself, or someplace really nice that you can't share with anyone?" (Side note: that’s a good icebreaker around the holiday table to avoid politics.)
So he walked down to the ocean at sunset, where he met a small group of people having dinner on the beach. He joined them in the sand and, toward the end of the meal, asked, “people who come to Greece, who come to the islands, what should they do here?”
One woman had a good, but expected answer: “Eat. Get drunk and sing and dance.”
And then her friend cut in with a heart-stopping line.
“Don’t tell me what you ate,” she said. “Tell me who you ate with.”
She didn’t meant it to be some huge, Jack Handy thought, but I’ve taken it that way. It’s a powerful insight.
It ties to the work we do in advertising, especially all the talk about data and creativity. Data is the menu; who we eat with is the creative part. We need both, but what people actually care about, what they’ll remember most, seems to be the latter.
And it resonates with the digital work we developing. The ingredients create what the app or platform can do, but the dinner party is why it matters. What can it do for people? How can it help them get together, engage them and make their lives more interesting?
Way beyond that, her idea also personally made me think about some of my favorite things and why they’re important to me:
• The best book I ever read.
It was actually a short story in an audiobook that I found it with my brother and sister in the back of a small library. We wore the tape out listening to it on a blanket, spread out in a field one August.
• A favorite song of mine.
It’s an indie-pop track that came out last year. I may be the only person over 25 who plays it on repeat, but every time I hear it I think about walking home with my best friend late one October night a long time ago. Feeling bored out of our minds, but with our whole lives ahead of us.
• And the greatest wine I ever had.
It was something nobody had heard of and had a god-awful label, but I happened to buy a few bottles of the last vintage made before the winemaker died and the winery closed. I opened them all one birthday night with family and friends at the top of a mountain in the Adirondacks and we toasted a person we’d never met.
A few things that, out of habit, I was going to link to. But I won’t. It isn’t about them. A random woman, on a random beach, threw out a random, brilliant reminder of that.
She doesn’t want to hear the what. She wants us to tell her who.