In the middle.

24.10.08 |

I am currently reading a book called A Land of Two Halves by Joe Bennett. Having not been in New Zealand long enough to know who he is, I was pleased to find out from my friends that he’s quite the character. They recalled stints of his commentary on morning breakfast shows, so wildly animated and excitable that he sometimes was still talking when they cut to commercial, the restraints of advertising funding too compelling to let a good idea continue.

I am no Joe, ironic at the time of writing this, as the 2008 American election is rapidly approaching and the last debate featured a character now referred to as ‘Joe the plumber, from Ohio’. One can even buy ‘Joe the plumber’ costumes for Halloween this year, which are more or less an ensemble quickly thrown together: a plunger, a blue overcoat and a name-tag on the left chest pocket. I am no Joe Bennett, as I am far less gifted in the written word and can’t quote poetry, even poetry that touched me at the time of reading. I also can’t name the proper names of flora or fauna, and it pains me to not know the flowers of my parent’s garden. I will want to know this someday. It will be very important.

I am no Joe in that respect, but I am often given over to animation. I still smile thinking of my European colleagues at graduate school in Brussels, and how naive and enthusiastic I must have seemed to them. Somehow we fostered friendships of great depth, and I look forward to someday returning to rejoin the circle of friends which include the transplanted German, Agnes and the transplanted Spaniard, Pablo (who was also prone to bouts of vibrancy). Recently, while discussing a project with a student, her project suddenly spanned into unexpected directions, the possibilities seemingly endless. I pounded the butt of my fist on the computer tabletop and startled her. So excited I could barely breathe, I began to laugh and explain and apologise all at the same time.

I often blame it on being American. But Joe, he’s English. And I suppose, once you actually live in a country for awhile, it stains you, not in a bad way, but residual. Joe and I, we’re now part New Zealander. Never fully, even if we live out our days here! Isn’t that strangely unfair? Perhaps there’s not even the desire to be, instead we’re just somewhere in the middle. Middle meaning between as well as balanced. How appropriate that this book is now splayed out, with its pixelated cover(!) facing me, its contents evenly dispersed. Ironic again that the country divided in half literally is divided in half again in word form and divided in half (again literally) on my second hand footstool; bought for 1 New Zealand dollar off Trademe.

The symmetry of this event makes me almost not want to continue reading. It might mean that I come to an end, or rather, as many journeys do, they begin to retrace, recollect and look back. Being in the middle often is a point of departure. After all, it’s hard to stay in the middle forever.

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