Sunday, October 26, 2008

Einstein & Nietzsche

I am rambling through Auckland with a poet whose work I have read and admire but whom I have never actually met. We are companionable and a bit excited as we leave behind the great white neo-classic monstrance of the Museum on the hill and go down through the Domain towards the city. I remember the way we used to walk when I was a student here in the 1970s and so we leave the path and head down that wide green slope between the trees towards Grafton Road. It’s much more overgrown than it was then and there’s a woman or perhaps two women going the same way as us—I call out a greeting to her and she replies, reminding us of how in those days you’d see through the trees flashes of the beaut long coloured dresses hippie girls wore. My new friend the poet is taking me out to dinner, or perhaps just taking me out … we arrive at a house that is somehow set over the campus but I can’t understand how this can be. We sit on built-in window seats before a built-in table, as if on a ship, and then I feel a wave of recognition go over me. I know this place. I get up from the table and walk towards the western end of the room to look out the windows towards the city. Yes! I’m elated. I go back to rejoin the poet and say: I have sat in this seat a thousand times before! It’s either a house I used to know on Constitution Hill or else it’s 56 Grafton Road where I lived twice in the 1972, once upstairs, once downstairs, with a gap in between. Or a combination of both houses. The poet has ordered food and I know it will be delicious. While we are waiting we meet two white cats in residence here, their names are Opus One and Opus Two. Then I see a book on the floor at my feet, with a plain cover upon which is written: Einstein & Nietzsche. What a brilliant idea for a book I think. I pick it up. It is tall and narrow but, as I open it, shrinks in my hands to the dimensions of a packet of yellow Zig Zag cigarette papers, the ones with a picture of a Zouave on the front. I’m completely unphased: this is brilliant marketing as well, to imagine a book designed in this way. And after all, I think, listening to the dry susurrus of onion skin paper rustling as I leaf through the book, Einstein and Nietzsche were contemporaries weren’t they? If only briefly. I wake up wishing I had that book on my bedside table. That the poet and I really had gone out to eat. And that I had a white cat called Opus One.

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