Grrr! Anthony Bourdain and the American Dream

Living the American Dream means living in a pressure cooker.

We all want to provide for our families, and that means a nice house with a nice TV (premium cable package, of course), heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer, and a respectable set of wheels to get us to the grocery store, where generic brands don’t even exist anymore.

And there’s nothing wrong with any of that.

We go to work, and even if we make a decent living, or more than our parents did when they were our age, we’re still struggling to make ends meet, and you wonder just how did mom and dad pull it off?

Whether that’s a product of our hyper-consumerism or simply the rising cost of living year after year doesn’t matter. It’s simply a fact of life.

And then you see the latest Chase bank commercial.

It’s shot on black-and-white film and plays out against a cover tune of Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” from the tear-jerker “Beaches.”

And even in a commercial, the song does its due, and before you know it you're blubbering like Robert De Niro's gangster-in-therapy character from "Analyze This."

The commercial is about a man paying for his daughter’s wedding, with clever flashbacks to tender moments between a little girl and her father, intercut with the old man escorting his pride and joy down the aisle into the arms of her fiancé and then writing a check to the caterer at the end of the reception.

The message is Chase Bank is there to help you plan for these moments.

Yeah, it’s a tear-jerker, but it's also enough to make any young parent become stricken with fear and pressure to be that guy in the commercial. And then the reality of how much money you owe hits you like a sledge-hammer over the head.

You run to the computer and log in to the company 401(k) Web site to check your retirement fund or your personal savings account, where the “amount you owe” column seems to be growing as the account "credit" column always seems to be diminishing.

Funny how that happens, isn’t it?

But we tell ourselves it will all be OK. Something will happen. We’ll get out from under. We’ll step in something that will mean a change in our way of life — something better for our family.

With that bit of self-reassurance (or denial) helping you feel a little better, you begin to channel surf through the premium cable package and land on Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" on The Travel Channel.

Bourdain is the former New York City chef who wrote the best-selling book “Kitchen Confidential,” which later became the basis for a FOX TV show.

Just when you’re done freaking out over the Chase commercial and your seemingly imminent Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, Bourdain says on his show, “I was a guy with a regular job as a chef, sweating behind the lines of restaurants for 20 years, and then I write one over-the-top, obnoxious book and my life changes overnight.”

Aha! Hope.

These days, Bourdain spends his time traveling the world for national television, tasting the finest wines and gourmet foods from some of the most exotic or simplest places on Earth.

His life went from behind the kitchen lines of rat-infested, cockroach-havens otherwise known as overpriced, hoity-toity 4 and 5 star restaurants (where his life only looked envious to the ditch-digger who works the overnight shift on the state highway maintenance department), to the bon vivant who gets paid to live a life of luxury, where his life is envy-inspiring.

Bourdain's a new millennium version of Playboy’s ’50s creation of LeRoy Neiman’s “Man About Town.”

All in all, not a bad way to live. Bourdain is an example of one form of The American Dream. Another version is the guy in the Chase commercial — the hero — the wind beneath his childrens' wings who can provide for them and make a life for them.

The challenge we face is having a little bit of both — a balance of Bourdain's worry-free wanderer and the Chase commercial guy's confident caretaker.

That’s the American Dream. The Grrr! is a way to help deal with the journey.

Keep Grrring, and keep dreaming.

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