Sunday, February 13, 2011
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S (1961)
7 Days before finals, Georgia State University, 1986
Day one: I hate finals. Especially these final finals, coming right before I graduate. I hate them so much right now, that I’ve decided to write in this journal to keep me focused and steady my mind until this is all over. One can only read so much about the importance of media in deciding the 1960 Presidential Election, Gerrymandering and The Assassination of Chilean President Salvador Allende without an outlet of some kind. So, I’m just going to put down my thoughts while sitting on the third floor of the Georgia State library. I’m at the same cubicle where I seem to always sit when I study, the one where I can peek over it and see the small area of the library that houses the Johnny Mercer Exhibit. This exhibit includes blown up photographs from his life, original sheet music, even a softly playing jukebox, but the prize of the exhibit is, of course, his Oscar for the song Moon River from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Did he write the music or did Henry Mancini? No, Johnny wrote the words. Actually, I’m not sure. I am sure that I’d like to get my hands on that Oscar, as I don’t seem to be on the path to actually winning one anytime soon. Nobody ever goes in there, to the exhibit I mean. That’s a shame. Hmmm. Just to hold the Oscar for a minute. That’s all I want. Just for a minute. Of course, the guard is always on duty thwarting all intruders to Johnny’s possessions. Got to find an opening. Oh, I’m just being stupid. As if there’s any meaning in a silly statue. I’m not sure if this journal is helping me. I need to go home. I’m tired of studying. Maybe I’ll go to West Coast Video and rent something to pop in my VCR. Something light. How about…Breakfast at Tiffany’s? I’ve never seen it before. Maybe I’ll see if Johnny Mercer really deserved that Oscar staring me in the face. Breakfast at Tiffany’s it is! Sounds better than watching Out of Africa anyway.
Day two: Back at my cubicle. Oh my God, after seeing Breakfast at Tiffany’s I can’t get Moon River out of my head. I’m whistling it now as I study. Ah, you caught me. How could I be whistling and studying and writing this at the same time? I can’t. Don’t want to study today anyway. I’ve made some small talk with the guard. His name is Jim. Quiet fellow. Nice guy. He looks like Morgan Freeman. If you don’t know who Morgan Freeman is, he was the tall black guy on The Electric Company. When I was a kid, I always preferred Sesame Street though. I felt I was being disloyal to Sesame Street if I liked The Electric Company too much. I’m off topic. Oh, yeah! There’s a girl in my Latin American Studies class that looks just like Audrey Hepburn. Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s! A girl that looks like Audrey Hepburn sitting in the row next to me at this moment has to be fate. I’m going to ask her out. Johnny’s Oscar is smiling and encouraging me. I could swear it was actually glowing.
Day three. Back at my cubicle. I learned yesterday that “Did anyone ever tell you look like Holly Golighty.” apparently isn’t a good pickup line. “I’m seeing someone,” she says to me. I thought she was trying to tell me something the time she asked me if she could borrow my eraser. Guess I put too much meaning into it. Maybe she just needed to erase something. I wonder if the real Audrey Hepburn would go out with me? Probably not. Reminds me of the last Audrey Hepburn movie I saw. I was in high school. Thought it would be nice to go see a movie with my mother. She wanted to see Sidney Sheldon’s Bloodline. A mystery with Audrey Hepburn in it. Should be no problems, right? Wrong! Let’s just say there may be worse things than sitting next to your mother in a movie theater and watching a sex scene but I’ll be damned if I can think of any right now. Is Johnny’s Oscar laughing at me?
Day four. At my cubicle. It’s funny how the Asian enrollment at Georgia State is probably about five percent, but you’d think it’s closer to fifty percent if you go by the students you see at the library. And none of them remotely resemble Mickey Rooney’s character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. “I’m gonna call the powice Miss Gowightwee!” The less said about that Oriental minstrel show the better. Huh, I tried to change the subject and talk about the Asians in the library and it came back to Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Huh. Moon River. Wider than a mile. The Oscar is glowing now. I’m not kidding. It’s really glowing. Doesn’t anyone else see this? I’m not studying for finals with this going on.
Day five. Moon River-Wider than a mile-I’m crossing you in style- someday-Rainbow’s end-Waitin’ Round the Bend-My Huckleberry Friend…What the hell is a Huckleberry friend, anyway? Back at my cubicle, Jim smiles at me and compliments me on my disciplined study and note taking habits. Poor, poor Jim. He just doesn’t know. I confess now to my journal that the notes I’ve taken the last four days have nothing to do with Supreme Court decisions or American isolationism since the Monroe Doctorine or any other supposedly pertinent Political Science topic. My notebooks are full now. I’ve written the words to Moon River over and over. I can fit all the words twice on each page. Of course, I’ve been experimenting with different fonts. Let’s see that’s three notebooks, seventy sheets. Two-hundred and ten times two. I’ve written the words to Moon River four-hundred and twenty times. I could have written it more, but I’ve had to make these journal entries. I’ve noticed when Jim moves off his shift there is an opening where I might be able to move right in an get my hands on Johnny’s Oscar. Plan for that. Act on it. Johnny’s Oscar is beckoning me like a beacon.
Day six. Back at my cubicle. What would I do with it? Thoughts haven’t gone that far yet. Have I lost total grip of reality? Oscar, I think we’re on a first name basis now, is looking at me. Even though it has no eyes and no features on its face. It’s glowing. Let’s not sugarcoat this and I’m not trying to be an alarmist either. Within that little statue is, I know this sounds crazy, a portal to an alternate reality. I’m sure of it. The only question is should I try to stop it or embrace it? I really need to ask Carl Sagan. He’d have some answers. Or maybe Isaac Asimov? Oh, I just don’t know what to do, my huckleberry friends.
Day seven. I think Jim is getting suspicious. I sat in a cubicle a little further removed so he couldn’t see me, but I could still peer at him. I’ll never get to Oscar. It’s not to be. At least that’s what I thought when a miracle happened. Jim started holding his stomach in pain. In his discomfort, I saw my chance.
He spoke to me. “Must have been that burrito I had for lunch. Look, I’m not supposed to leave my post. Could you keep an eye on things for just a minute while I…”
I nodded in approval as Jim ran out of the opening of the exhibit section and headed toward the bathroom. Here was my chance. I cautiously approached Oscar. It was now mine for the taking. I was about to grab it. What would happen if they caught me? Who cares? The entire fabric of the Universe might shift after this. I licked my chops. I started to hum Moon River as I reached for it. I could almost feel it when I felt an arm grab my wrist.
“What the Hell do you think you’re doing?” A voice from behind me said.
I turned around, frightened. A short man with glasses, a panama hat and white suit looked at me reproachfully.
“I…I …don’t know…I …Hey, I know you. You’re Truman Capote! You used to be on The Merv Griffin Show all the time and you were in that movie Murder By Death. What do you have to do with Breakfast at Tiffany’s?”
He looked ready to slap me, but seemed to think better of it and just lecture me instead. “Oh, I only wrote the novel Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Made the whole thing up. Made Audrey Hepburn an icon. Gave Blake Edwards a license to mangle my story, and of course gave Johnny Mercer his precious Oscar. Don’t mind me, I’m not important. The whole thing just sprung out of my imagination. I know that probably doesn’t impress you as much as me being on the damn Merv Griffin Show!”
“I’m sorry.” I said.. “I…I knew you were a writer. But aren’t you dead?”
Truman took a deep breath and released his grip on me. “Yes, I’m afraid I’ve been playing the grass harp for a couple of years now. But that doesn’t mean I can’t give you some advice. I’m no psychiatrist, but I think you’re just using this whole Johnny Mercer thing to put off finishing your last quarter of school because then you have to decide what to do with your life.”
His words felt like an anvil being dropped on my head in a Roadrunner cartoon. I knew he was right. All I’ve been doing, thinking, feeling and imagining the last few days was just an elaborate delaying tactic. I felt ashamed. I looked down and began to walk out of the exhibit area.
“Hey.” Truman said. “Take this.”
It was a copy of his book In Cold Blood.
“Thanks.” I said. “But what’s it all mean?”
“Think. You’re in a library. A ghostly literary genius, if I do say so myself, has given you a book. A last edition, you might say. What do you think I’m trying to tell you might be a good career path?”
I thought for a moment as I stared at the cover of the book. “You mean I should get a job as a criminal investigator? Or maybe work in a book store?”
“You’ll figure it out…someday.”
I studied the book again, but when I looked up, Truman was gone. Jim came back and thanked me for covering for him. I said that it was no problem and went to my cubicle to study for finals in the little time I had left.
Day eight: I took my three final exams. I passed. Three C’s. I got my degree and I’m off to see the world…there’s such a lot of world to see.