In the opening shot of last night's Seattle episode of Parts Unknown, host Anthony Bourdain sits on the deck of what appears to be an Edgewater Hotel room, lights up a joint, and looks out onto the sound to really think, you know? Conspicuously cool Bourdain is definitely my least favorite Bourdain, as opposed to, say, curious Bourdain. And this intro had me worried his visit to Seattle would amount to an old white dude in sunglasses talking about grunge.
That's pretty much what we got, as it turns out. During his conversations over meals at Taylor Shellfish, in Vashon island, and various bars around town, Bourdain poked at the stalwart Pacific Northwest stereotypes of rain, angsty music, and serial killers. The latter subject he just could not drop, even getting a longtime detective to admit there might be as many as 75 serial killers currently living in the state (!!!!).
But Parts Unknown also revealed that the current, driving narrative within the city itself is also how the rest of the country views us: a city of rapid, merciless transformation populated by tech bros and legal weed. At the Pacific Inn Pub in Wallingford, Bourdain interrogates Dustin Patterson and Astra Elane of the band The Gods Themselves about what, exactly, makes tech bros literally the worst people in the world. "They have a certain smell, don't they?" he asks at one point, to which Elane and Patterson give a sort of I mean...I guess, dude.
He also gets super high. Or at least performs that way, particularly at Mamnoon while dining with the brother-and-sister team behind Hollingsworth Cannabis (by far the most charismatic characters in the episode, host included). "I've been smoking since I was 13," Bourdain admits at one point. Then act that way, Tony!
In many ways, the character of Bourdain is fairly anti-Seattle, as the city projects itself now. He's notoriously critical of fussy food culture and prefers the street vendors of Hanoi to any sort of white tablecloth molecular gastronomy. And yet he visits Nathan Myhrvold, Mr. Molecular Gastonomy at Modernist Cuisine (they eat bread in a jar). And then the founders of ChefSteps. And to all of them he essentially asks, "Aren't you ruining food a little bit?"
It should come as no surprise that the episode closes with a lengthy chat between Bourdain and storied musician Mark Lanegan (who no longer lives in Seattle, by the way) about why It Used to Be Better. Following an outro via Lanegan's "Strange Religion," which sounds very much like a wake, Bourdain shows America how to roll a joint because he's very cool.