Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs
2002.09.15 : I'm A Happy Guy™
Part N: "And Then What Have You Got?"

"If the rose at noon has lost the beauty it had at dawn, the beauty it had then was real. Nothing in the world is permanent, and we're foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we're still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it."
        - W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor's Edge

"I'm not looking back
But I want to look around me now
See more of the people
And the places that surround me now
Freeze this moment
A little bit longer
Make each sensation
A little bit stronger"
        - Neil Peart & Rush


    Abbe, and her fiance Evan, and I, are padding around in a small, dark room of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. In this one small room are five, count 'em, of the world's starkly limited supply of Faberge eggs.
Joe Laltrello, inveterate juggler (after juggling some fruit in a produce section or some such): "You just know, one day one of us is going to find ourselves in a room with three Faberge eggs in it. And you know what will happen then."
    I can flash five. I can, I just know it.

• • •

    I am standing, with Abbe, in the extra-wide, grassy median of Richmond's majestic, cobble-bricked Monument Avenue. A block each to our north and south, towering statues of Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis (President, Confederate States of America), respectively, dominate the street. We have just taken breakfast at a winning and funky java joint in the historic-and-picturesque-townhouse-lined Richmond district called The Fan. There was a Jamaican soy latte, flavored with cinnamon and cacao, involved. Abbe had a bagel. Juice figured.
    Further to the south of the spot where we stand, stands an additional monument, this one to Robert E. Lee, and then after that one to Major General J.E.B. "Jeb" Stuart, Commander, Northern Virginia Cavalry Corps. And but also then a block to the north is, eigentlich [the pregnant German word for "actually," which I've been affecting pretty unceasingly lately], a statue of Arthur Ashe – the AIDS-felled, African-American, Richmond tennis hero. The South is all about racial reconciliation, ne pas? I mean, where other than Virginia would Robert E. Lee and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. get to share a holiday?
    The sunlight here in The Fan is having a certain spectacular, dreamy, sinuous quality to it. The temperature is fine – and Richmond is pretty like very healthy and well-to-do little girls. We are smiling out loud. And but also I am having another existential moment here:
M: We're really not probably going to remember the details of this.
A: We're not?
M: No. The sunlight, the greenery – and this singular feeling. This is my third trip Back East™ in 16 months. And I tell you the details of the other two have already just gotten like meltingly vague. All muxed together. Or just not there at all. So, I mean: five years from now, you and I are going to be talking together, and we'll say, Hey, remember that great visit we had in Richmond that time, we went to a coffee shop or something?
    The knock-out visuals on Monument Ave. are making me hurt for lack of a camera. I finally decided on a new digicam; but I ordered it from a low-cost vendor whose idea of 24-48 hour turnaround time seems to be measured in weeks. So I went ahead and jetted off (from Atlanta) on this side-trip (the northerly-oriented segment of East Coast Meander ]I[, in 3-D™) camera-free. With each stop, increasing pain has resulted. And but some of the pleasure has also been of nearly painful magnitude. Last night, Abbe and I stayed up late, and sat silently on the couch together in little timid cones of light, reading. Of course I knew beforehand that I was keen to see her again – but I didn't remember, until I was actually in her presence, how all-around delightful that presence is. Being here, like this, is a joy.
M: I mean, not to be too dramatic. But thinking about the profound ephemerality of this startlingly lovely moment – in light of dodgy memory, and of my complete lack of any sort of freaking camera – makes me suddenly sad, sad to have to ultimately die. For all of this to go away. I mean, I guess it's pretty nice to be enjoying life so much that you're sad for it to have to ever end.
A: Are you enjoying life?
M: Yeah. Yeah, I am. I'm a happy guy.
• • •

    Evan and I in the early-ish morning, seated together at the breakfast nook. Evan is eating toasted Jewish rye bread, suitably buttered. We are recounting bagels, and rolls, and the Times, and black-and-white cookies, and other AM accoutrements of youths spent in New York and New Jersey. It is a fine shared splash of memory. It is a fine morning.

• • •

    Now, things are going rapidly, and bouncingly, by. First goes by the campus of VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University). With it, the converted row house on Grace St. that used to house my old favorite vegetarian restaurant haunt, Grace Place. (My first jobby job was with the Virginia Institute of Government; we had offices in Charlottesville, and Richmond, so I used to spend a fair bit of time here. That's when I figured out what an underrated berg Richmond really is.) The campus has gone by; but I'm still feeling very strong, and everything is just so very beautiful. So I keep going. There goes the presumably several-star Jefferson Hotel – and the historic Linden Row Inn, where I used to shack up on business visits. There's the RTD (Richmond Times-Dispatch) building – and my old office. This means I'm actually downtown. But and then there's a sign for Belle Isle – the little, sandy, preserved patch of island out in the middle of the James River. Can't pass that up (I used to bicycle out to it, and remember it fondly – mainly because I have a picture!). To reach it, you actually negotiate a narrow, bouncy pedestrian bridge (more like "skyway") which is suspended from the bottom of the tremendous overpasses that carry I-95 over the James. The suspended bridge is like 60 feet over the water, and as many under the overpass. The sound of the cars and trucks grumbling by overhead sounds uncannily like thunder. You keep looking up for the rainstorm, over and again.
    While I'm bouncing on out, I find I'm revisiting, re-hashing, the existential themes from earlier. Specifically, I begin to turn over the question:

"And Then What Have You Got?"

    I mean, at the end of the day – at the end of a life – what have you actually got? When I met my friend Chad, one of the reasons he was so darned interesting was that he was genuinely in the throes of a full-blown existential crisis. Raised Mormon – including BYU, missionary work in South America – he had not too long ago realized that he just couldn't believe anymore, that his faith was gone. So, he had two questions. One: "If God isn't keeping track, then what the hell does it matter WHAT I do, morally speaking, anymore?" and Two: "At the end of all this, do I simply end up staring at the inside lid of a pine box? And, if so, what's the point of any of it?"
    Fair questions, right?
    I mean, okay, what might you have (at the end of the day)? Some pictures? Sure, maybe. Though, chemical photographs, even on good paper, are only going to last about 100 years on the outside. (And that's if you brought your camera.) Digital's potentially a little more immortal – but that's, like, assuming anyone will have software that can render, say, JPGs, 100 years from now. Stories? Maybe, if you write them down, or pass them along. Art, of the immortal sort? Sure, maybe you'll write something that will be in print forever, or paint something that will hang someplace dusty and with big marble pillars out front. But those are mighty tough rackets, let me tell you. The love and respect of others? Okay, we're onto something with that. That's a strong candidate. Being a really great friend/sibling/child/parent/spouse has got to be a truly admirable route to immortality. But, then again, popularity is fickle, no? So . . . NOTHING? You've got nothing? That's the traditional answer of Eastern Mysticism. Everything goes away; so, your best bet is to let go early and often. Just get over the whole clinging thing. As Abbe suggested, enjoy the process, and don't go expecting any final product. But that's a hard nut, isn't it? Muslims and Christians are expecting Eternal Paradise and a seat at God's Right Hand. Could come up. Not banking on it. Similarly, Buddhists and Hindus are gunning for karmic perfection, and thus an end to the cycle of samsara (suffering) and reincarnation, and then a final merger with the old Godhead. Stranger things have happened. Like, for instance:
    Getting back uptown, I realize I just did, like, a 10 or 12 mile run. I'm historically a pretty sorry excuse for a runner, like a 3-mile-and-out kind of guy. But, today, I just ran for a solid two hours at, I'm at least hoping, maybe a 10-12 minute per mile pace. And I realized it was the best run of my life. And then I remember the best bicycle ride of my life was also the longest ride I've ever taken. Maybe a lesson here, maybe an allegorical-type lesson. But, whichever, today, I know this, that I am definitely a happy guy.

    And but then what have you got?
  art     happiness     abbe     existentialism     running  
about
close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

You can reach him on .

THE MANUSCRIPT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
PANDORA'S SISTERS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
DON'T SHOOT ME IN THE ASS, AND OTHER STORIES by Michael Stephen Fuchs
D-BOYS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
COUNTER-ASSAULT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book One - Fortress Britain, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Two - Mogadishu of the Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Genesis, by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Three - Three Parts Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Four - Maximum Violence, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Five - EXODUS, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Six - The Horizon, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs

ARISEN, Book Seven - Death of Empires, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eight - Empire of the Dead by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : NEMESIS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Nine - Cataclysm by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Ten - The Flood by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eleven - Deathmatch by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Twelve - Carnage by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Thirteen - The Siege by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Fourteen - Endgame by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Fickisms
ARISEN : Odyssey
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