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september 2008

Happy Birthday, Holly Golightly!

Dear Miss Golightly,

I woke up this morning, nowhere near Tiffany’s, sans breakfast, with a case of the “mean reds.”

War, hunger, murder, mayhem blared out of the radio. I was afraid, but didn’t know what I was afraid of. Then I remembered.  You, the svelte, shrewd, charming (some say, amoral but I think that’s bunk) naif, born in 1958, turn 50 this year. 

The late Truman Capote brought you to life, in the best place and season (except maybe April in Paris) – in autumn in New York. Ever since, so many of us (probably Truman Capote himself) have thought “Holly Golightly, c’est moi.”

From creative artists to gay men and lesbians to actors – we have, like you, shed our former selves to make art, reach for the stars or look for someone (something) to belong to.

The Golightly gene’s in our DNA.

In the late 1940's, my father got a scholarship and a part-time job so he could go to veterinary school in Philadelphia to escape the farm where he grew up in Southern New Jersey. My mom left her small N.J. town to marry him. They spent their first year together in Phily. My Dad continued his studies and my mother worked as a lab technician.

Years later (when I was 16), my mom told me about their first Christmas Eve.  My Dad was at his job.  “I had to work that evening,” she told me, “it was cold and I was all alone on the bus going home.” One day you’ll read Breakfast at Tiffany’s, my mother added, then you’ll know what I mean when I tell you that I had a bad case of “the mean reds” that night.

But, like you, she could beat the “mean reds” at their own game – by teaching us kids to eat dessert before dinner.  My Dad shooed angst away by training our parrot Fritz to cuss. (Fritz doesn’t know what he’s saying, he’d tell our shocked grandma.)

When you get the “mean reds,” you hop a cab to Tiffany’s, you said, “It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men in their nice suits, and their lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets. If I could find a real life place that made me feel like Tiffany’s, then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name.”

Now you and I know, that there is no real life place that makes you feel like Tiffany’s. But that doesn’t mean that we should stop searching for it. For artists (from visual artists to poets), Tiffany’s is our art. If we’re lucky and our muse is kind, we’ll find a place like Tiffany’s when we make art. Then we can buy some furniture and give our cat a name. Too often we misjudge your generation, Miss Golightly. We think that the 1950's was a sterile, creatively infertile decade – as silent as the dark side of the moon and as bland as Wonder Bread.

You must be chuckling, at this characterization. Because New York was something back in your day! Frank O’Hara, James Baldwin, Garbo, Billie Holiday – to name just a few who wrote, painted, sang and acted, when men wore fedoras, women wore white gloves and anyone who was anyone, knew the difference between a martini and a Manhattan.

Most of us nonfictional characters feel old (at least wonder if we should feel old) when we hit the big 50. But, since you’re fictional (though more real than many real life people to many of us), I hope you won’t have the “mean reds” on your half century. Because you’ll always be in the Tiffany’s of our mind, with us as we enjoy and make art.


©2008 Kathi Wolfe
©2008 Scene4 Magazine

Scene4 Magazine: Kathi Wolfe
Kathi Wolfe is a writer and poet and a columnist for Scene4.
Her reviews and commentary have also appeared in an array of publications.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives


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