"This is where I bought my first bag of heroin." Anthony Bourdain pulls zero punches with the opening line of last night's Parts Unknown. In the episode, the CNN travelogue takes a break from its usual far-flung locales to focus on somewhere more familiar: Massachusetts, where Bourdain got his first job in the restaurant industry. But while Top Chef's current Boston-set season has relied on tropes like the Boston Tea Party and visits to Fenway Park, Bourdain visits the region's smaller towns, where a grittier reality emerges. Western Massachusetts specifically, he intones, is now "the unlikely new frontier of America's War on Drugs, where heroin has become an exploding problem that has begun to touch nearly every family."
Bourdain speaks at length about his own past drug use, tracing it back to a formative early-'70s summer in Provincetown, Massachusetts. As Bourdain walks viewers by his old beach house and former summer haunts, he wonders aloud: "What the hell happened?" How did the region become "ground zero" for the current heroin epidemic? In between talks with former dealers and a session at the Recover Project, Bourdain also finds time to board a Massachusetts scallop boat, go bowling, and attend an old-fashioned clambake, straddling the lines between waning traditions and emerging problems. Here now, in the tradition of the Quotable Bourdain, the best lines from the episode.
1) On the site of all his indiscretions: "I love the beach. I pretty much had my first everything on a beach. You name it — first time I did it — beach."
2) On spending his younger days working at the beach: "It's an amazing spot, if you think about it: a bunch of knuckleheads working as dishwashers, waiters, pizza servers, that you could live on a beach like this. Happier, stupider times."
3) On sonic memories: "If you put on Marvin Gaye right now, I'd burst into tears."
4) On the aura surrounding Provincetown, Massachusetts: "Provincetown: a wonderland of tolerance with a longtime tradition of accepting artists, writers, the badly behaved, the gay, the different. It was paradise. The joy that can only come with the absolute certainty that you were invincible; that none of the choices that you'd make would have any repercussions or any effect on your later life. We didn't think about those things."
5) On his former haunt, the Lobster Pot: "My friends worked in the kitchen here, starting the tradition among my set that cooking work was noble toil."
6) On P-Town's Atlantic House, the oldest operating gay bar in the country: "Everybody has come through these doors, so to speak: Most notably, a naked and frolicking Tennessee Williams."
7) On his familiarity with fishing boats: "I'm sure I'll be fine. I've watched the Deadliest Catch."
8) On the diminishing returns for full-time fishermen: "The payout ain't much. Do the math: A good day of scalloping brings in, say, 9,000 bucks. From that $9,000, take away $3,000 for the lease, a thousand for fuel, and split the remainder amongst the crew."
9) On the satisfaction of "earning" his meal: "As brawny, hardworking men of the sea, we deserve these beers, these finest of all oysters, the Wellfleets."
10) On downing shots of booze with a crew of fishermen: "This is going to end badly."
11) On the temptations of Provincetown: "That was the Sodom-and-Gommorah-by-the-Sea over there, a big candy store for a horny, stupid, 17-year-old with a taste for chemicals."
12) On his former despondent life outlook: "It came as a rude surprise to me when I turned 30, cause I always sort of figured I'd be dead by then."
13) On his patrol car ride, to his police officer host: "[Miami Vice's] Sonny Crockett gets a Ferrari. What's wrong with this picture?"
14) On the area's troubling drug problem: "Today's heroin epidemic is different than the one that raged through America in the 1970s, in a few significant ways. Back then, heroin was mostly seen as a poor people problem... marginal people, far from the white main streets of Mayberry, USA. What those people did to themselves, 'Well, it's unfortunate, but it's not our problem' — until somebody broke into your house. Today, it's absolutely the reverse."
15) On stumbling upon a surprisingly rare find at Turner Falls' Shady Glen Diner: "Raspberry cream pie for me. This is not something that we see a lot of, old-school pie like that. And this number of them?... This is exotic, for me."
16) On life's simple pleasures: "A hot open turkey sandwich and a big slice of pie, it's a beautiful thing."
17) On his past drug use, to a group of recovering addicts: "I'll tell you something really shameful about myself. The first time I shot up I looked at myself in the mirror with a big grin."
18) On an oversized clambake setup: "There's not a pig hiding in there also?"
19) On regional chowder loyalties: "There really is only one kind of chowder — New England clam chowder."
20) On how to tackle the region's unfortunate drug problem, by learning from the past: "Maybe now, now that it's really come home to roost — now that it's the high school quarterback, your next-door neighbor, your son, your daughter, now that grandma is just as likely to be a junkie as anybody else — we'll accept that there has never been a real 'War on Drugs.' 'War on Drugs' implies an 'us' versus 'them.' And all over this part of America, people are learning there is no 'them,' there is only 'us.'"