A&E Columns

This must be the place: ‘I don’t want to own anything until I find a place where me and things go together’

A good book to read at 5 Walnut Wine Bar in Asheville. Garret K. Woodward photo A good book to read at 5 Walnut Wine Bar in Asheville. Garret K. Woodward photo

I’m a minimalist. I don’t want much, nor do I care to ever have much. As long as I’m surrounded by shelves of books and stacks of vinyl records, a comfy recliner and some cold suds in the fridge in my humble abode of a one-bedroom Waynesville apartment (that also has a porch with mountain views, thankfully), I’m good to go.  

For my money, literally and figuratively, I think it should be spent on travel, experiences and fine dining. You’ll never forget that glass of pricey red wine on the Las Vegas Strip or freshly caught lobster on the coast of Maine. And you’ll never forget who you were with in doing so, how you felt and how wondrous the universe can be if you just lean into it a little bit.  

 As I always say, “Order the filet.” Life is what you make it, so make it delicious and adventurous. To that, I also hold a deep respect for literature. That feeling of holding an actual book, setting aside time to flip through the pages, letting your imagination soar from simply black ink typed on a once blank white page — it’s pretty incredible, with its timeless luster of awe and wonder never lost on me.

 Well, the other day, as I was enjoying some wine and cheese with my girlfriend, Sarah, at the Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar in Asheville’s Grove Arcade, I found myself browsing the endless rows of literary classics and rare books within the winding, seemingly never-ending store.  

 Eventually, I came across a first edition copy of Truman Capote’s seminal 1958 novella “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” One of my favorite books (and films). And for obvious reasons when you peel back the story line of a young writer trying to find footing in this all too wild and crazy world. Food for thought when I first read it those many years, as I was a hungry soul in search of the written word. Still am, too.

 The price of the book was very agreeable. And yet, I was momentarily on the fence about purchasing it. But, that personal motto of “Order the filet” echoed throughout my heart and soul. And so, I approached the register.  

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 Right now, as I sit on a chair in the window of the 5 Walnut Wine Bar in downtown Asheville — sipping the $5 white wine special, diving once again into the legend and lore of Holly Golightly through the words and sentiments of the late Capote — a feeling of gratitude for the moment washes over me. 

 It’s funny how “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” first appeared in my life and how it now has evolved into a small piece of my personal and professional identity — as a writer, adventure seeker, hopeless romantic and carefree, devil-may-care human being.

 Like most of us, I’ve always been aware of Audrey Hepburn, her once-in-a-generation natural beauty, style and grace, that effortless screen presence very few have ever possessed that will forever captivate audiences. Those incredible films, too — “Roman Holiday,” “My Fair Lady,” “Sabrina,” “Two for the Road.” And not to mention all of her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

And I remember watching “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” as a kid. But, it wasn’t until I was in college in Connecticut where the film became a big inspiration in that early desire to become a writer — God willin’ and the creek don’t rise. At some point, I can’t remember exactly, I came across the film on late night TV, probably following some weekend collegiate excursion, myself usually the last one asleep.  

 This go-round, the film captivated me, this unfolding, whirlwind story of an aspiring writer who lands in New York City, only to cross paths with cosmopolitan high society, but also this femme fatale, soon to become creative muse, etc. You know the story. It remains as powerful today as it did when first written in 1958.

 Not long after that renewed affinity for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” I found myself at a school poster sale in the campus cafeteria. I browsed the selection, only to come face-to-face with this small print of Audrey Hepburn in her Holly Golightly outfit — the black dress and diamond accessories, the elongated cigarette holder and unfiltered tobacco stick hanging off the end.

 I purchased the print and hung it up on the corkboard in my small third-floor dorm room. Then, the print came with me out west following graduation in 2007 when I chased journalism gigs in the Rocky Mountains and beyond, in the same box packed up with the ole “Garrett” mug of mine I bought in Seattle. I recently wrote about that mug, too. I suppose the winter doldrums conjure these thoughts, the cold winds of February whipping up dusty memories. 

That same print currently sits on the wall in the living room of the Waynesville apartment. It serves as a reminder of where it all began, those early years of trying to figure “it all out” and how, well, you never really figure anything out — you just keep moving along, hoping that whatever does happen, that it’s in the name of love and compassion, purpose and poise.

 Now with this original copy of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” within my hands, I’ve been chipping away at it, albeit slowly, usually when I have a little bit of rare free time to kick back in the recliner and knock down several pages, reacquainting myself with the characters and the plot of a book that’s now over 65 years old, yet feels like it was composed yesterday — the power of quality writing and real emotion put forth from the depths of the human condition.

More so, it’s about being along for the ride that is life, all while retaining that childlike wonder of curiosity and discovery so many of us lose along the way, sadly, whether we realize it or not. Is it still with you? No? Well, then where did it go? When was the last time you truly stood outside of yourself and took a leap of faith? Take that trip. Pick up that instrument. Call that person. Order the filet.

 Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.

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