Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs
2003.11.30 : Skip This Dispatch
"Every little trifle, for some reason, does seem incalculably important today, and when you say of a thing that 'nothing hangs on it' it sounds like blasphemy. There's never any knowing – how am I to put it? – which of our actions, which of our idlenesses won't have things hanging on it forever."
        - E.M. Forster, Where Angels Fear to Tread

     Did I mention my resolution to read only English novelists while I'm here? Luckily, England's produced one or two decent ones. ;^) I actually broke down once, which event I memorialized in this poem:
Memorium For My Only English Authors Resolution
But Bret Easton Ellis
For 99p
Who could resist?
Not me.
    Very Ogden Nash, don't you think? As it happened, I was well paid for my irresolution: the book, Less Than Zero, turned out to be entirely aptly titled. (I was surprised, as I'd like McInerny; and they're all of a piece, right?) I put it down after 50 pages (and I don't put down much). I got rapidly and repentently right back on track, with Ian McEwan and E.M. Forster and Ian Fleming and Quentin Crisp and the Amises – pere (Kingsley) and fils (Martin). I even gave full-length Zadie Smith a try (but just to provide myself with the platform from which to hurl scorn upon her). I'm even giving Jane Austen another chance.

First totally low-key weekend (out of 10 or 11 so far), this. All shopping, and laundry, and dry cleaning, and long leisurely workouts, and hair cut, and basically fighting entropy. But, of course, with the obligatory trip to the Tate Britain, to meet my One-Museum-Per-Weekend Quota. Made some major lifestyle strides: found a shampoo, and more notably, a dental floss I like (both from Tesco; turns out the grocery store beats the pharmacy (Boots) for toiletries). Figured out how to recycle; that feels good. Made some progress toward catching up with mail. Updated the mf.org consulting projects page (I've worked on as many in two months here as I did in the prior two years).

Oh – and found FUJI APPLES for the first time! Major coup. Once you've gone Fuji, it's hard to go back. These are not the equal of the Fujis I had in the States; but they're country miles ahead of the Galas I'd been settling for – and never mind the bloody indigenous British apples. Oh, man, this place does apples poorly. First I took a flier on these pumpkin-sized, bumpy, green "English Brambley" apples. Brambles is what they tasted like. I got through two of the four on principle. Also, I figured they had to be the lowest-sugar apples I'd ever had, so maybe they were good for me. Then, busting the scale in the other direction, I had these tiny, red "English dessert" apples. Dessert gone bad, I'd say. Bleah. Stupidly, I'd bought a whole bag (they were on sale), and divested myself of a bag minus one.

But, that (the apple horror) is so far the worst I can say about England. So far, the weather's even been quite good (though I'm told this won't last). It rains fairly often, but never a lot. And light mist out of a glowing grey/yellow sky really strikes me as quite nice (at least, after the unrelenting and unvarying perfection of south Bay weather). Lately it's almost sort of properly come down a couple of times; and you know in advance to take your umbrella out, if you see others with theirs out – Londoners don't bother unless the normal light misting/sprinkling is being exceeded.

Had a pint on Friday night down the local with Mr. Ian Fisher, the most colourful character in the Boka Hotel. He's writing a semi-autobiographical novel about his experience meeting up in South American with a bunch of students from the Eastern bloc, plotting to kidnap the President of Romania (and ultimately inadvertantly causing his assassination, if the tale is to believed), and getting caught running drugs through Germany to finance the operation. (The case was dropped when it became clear how much of the evidence had disappeared in the hands of the German police.) I'm helping him with his synopsis.

Mr. Fisher has been in prison more than once (at one time earning a computer science degree while in lockdown), and is fairly down on his luck. He's also a musician; last year he was invited to Nashville to discuss recording deals – but was turned back at the airport by U.S. authorities, due to his prison record, as an undesirable. He actually owns a flat in north London, but can't afford to live in it (he lives, just barely, off the income from renting it out). He's been in the Boka for seven months.

I didn't say nearly enough – I realised, going back and actually looking at my notes – about the 2003 Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit. Here are those notes, scarcely edited:

  • The intro wall text: winners represent the best of over 20,500 entries, including a mix of amateurs and pros: "Achieving the perfect picture is down to a mixture of vision, luck and knowledge of nature, which doesn't necessarily require an armoury of equipment and global travel."
  • Steppe eagle fighting a maribou stork! Holy cow!
  • Freaking unbelievable – makes me so excited about photography a creative art form.
  • White Barn owl, triggering an auto-camera, live mouse in mouth, wings and legs fully extended – amazing!
  • 5 or 6 from Namibia - 3 from Etosha, 1 from Namib desert. I've been going to the right places to shoot!
  • Best photographer name: Alwin A K van der Heiden Roosen.
  • There's an 11-14 y/o category! And a 10-and-under category!!
  • Shot of lions surround by tourist tyre tracks in Serengeti, where trucks have hemmed them in and done circles to get pictures (from "World in Our Hands section", demonstrating how we're screwing up nature). Sadly, I realise those tyre tracks are me.
  • Red colobus monkey, Jozani Forest, Zanzibar. Seen that as well!
  • Most brazen wall text claim: "I positioned the Landrover between the lions and myself so that I wouldn't distrub their siesta."
    Me: "Takes real cajones to try to pass that one off."
    Josh: "Yeah – the lions would be disturbed if they had to come over and eat me."
  • Not one of the shots was taken digitally. For some reason, this really freaks me out – like I've been fooling myself thinking that digital has completely arrived, and everyone should get on the train.
    While I'm putzing around back in notes I haven't written up, let's see what else is in there. Ah, hell, I'm never going to get around to writing these up. So, in a behind-the-scenes special that will only be on interest to really die-hard readers (like, Sara, Danielle, and Erin, and that's about it), here are my totally unedited notes from my first 2 months in London. This is the scratchpad which sits between experience and expression. You decide the distortion level of the lens . . .

Day 0 - I'm Doing Something Here
17 Sept, 2003 12:36pm (according to J/L watch)
This is it. I'm at the Dunwoody MARTA Station with,
literally, all my possessions on my back. I'll be
living out of this bag (well, three, technically, but
two attach and the third is quite small) indefinitely
. . . in a foreign country and culture . . . in a
city of 7.5 million people . . . and going back to
work full-time (touch wood) for the first time in two

After making arrangements all year (notably the visa
business), and dithering for weeks, there's nothing
for it now but to get on the plane.

Farewell America, "sweet land of liberty." Never
goodbye, of course, but only farewell. America is an
idea(l); I take it with me wherever I go.

DAY 1 - English School Girls

Flying trauma ward

*Quarter to 6am* – beginning of brand new day (while
watching sun rise over London out window)
Made it
Baggage REclaim – once again.
"Warning. Smuggling is an offence." They just wanted
to let you know how they felt about it.
Stopped to get Appeltizer before bus. Oh my God:
they're playing Englishman in NY. "Whoah oh, I'm an
alien. I'm a legal alien . . ."
Stepped above ground for first time, and weather was
just misty and cold, with a sky like gym clothes.

CGEY, Woking, schoolgirls
[Things I've learned about trains on my first day in
* Talking
* Knew return = rountdritp. Didn't know single=one
way (not one person). Asking for "single return"
draws strange looks.
* Lots of English schoolgirls on train around 3pm.
* Having one be late and casue one to miss one's
connection is a very uncontroversial excuse for being
late to an interview
* The tabloid The Sun, which people leave on them,
has topless women every day on page 3.
* Many of the doors on older ones have handles only
on the outside, reached through the window; not
knowing this is a world-beating way to miss your stop
Fifers returns, train->"Oh shit! Talking!"

Day 2 - There Are Beautiful Women Swarming Everywhere

Brunel: shithole, crappy-ass tech questions
tube, tube, tube - *first central London*
St. Pauls, call recruiter from red phone box
Hey! Millennium Bridge open! Gotta cross
Laughed out loud (again) first just to be stepping
over the Thames
  then again a minute later to realize: "I can go to
  the Tate Modern ANY TIME I WANT
Annoyed w/tourists; take picture for some N.
Mizuho interview
Sat at a sidewalk table watching Friday rush hour in
City go by [good thing Ken congestion charge!],
eating an aple & banana & drinking something called
Innocent Juicy Water (mango, p-fruit, spring water,
beet sugar). Wow

D3 20 Sept - Back to Self: "Bugger Off":
Slept 11 hours, snuck out
tube -> Clapham (don't like)
main drag, always High St. (user-friendly convention)
PHONE!; wiFi – no power!

Siesta, munching fruit (vendors), SMSing (texting)
back and forth. When I came back in and the guy at
the desk asked how I was doing, I said, "Making
progress." "With what?" ". . . Becoming British."

Packed, up stuff on back, headed for lab. Busted out
laptop. Local streaming radio – love music! Fucking
w/phone – suddenly almost understand why everyone's
fucking with their phone constantly. they're not
geeks or anti-social – they're just constantly texting
with their mates.

South -> Egham, Fife/drinks/Putney
"Sexy Korean girl" "5 hours SMS – spammed!"

I'm pretty sure, suddenly, that city life makes you
thin. I've probably lost 2% body fat in 3 days – just
from running around constantly, and never having time
to sit around and eat. Also, people here are quite
thin. That is to say, people on average are thin;
strikingly thin people are quite common; and
significantly unthin people are fairly rare.

Disaster in Egham!

Day 4 - "Move on the LEFT, Move on the LEFT"
Back, different room, pique, payment.
Out: black shirt, glorious, light, etc.
Mobile: 1 day, and I'm full-on texting geek

Caffe Nero in Putney. Couch, table, AC, fruit juice.
Nailed change. Carrot/apple/lemon.
Finally find power. gaydarradio.com! Yeah! (Madonna's
Hollywood, site says so)
"It's London; you've got to watch your stuff" lesson
the easy way

Back, shopping, proper grocery store, credit
dinner, study, stretch/leg day, plot tomorrow, sleep

Day 5
Up at 7, tea, shower – onto tube to continue my tour
of London's Caffe Neros (and neighborhoods I might
want to live in): South Kensington, only two stops
East on District line (one of London's 12). Goals:
return recruiter calls first thing, get online.
First lovely, cool, overcast day – very civilized.
Too loud in/out; can't talk/surf! Back to room, they
call me on way. 3 good convos.
Dealing w/recruiters is actually somewhat exciting.
I've always really liked job prospects, and even
offers – the problem is that they all have jobs
attached to them, and eventually I have to get up in
the morning and go do one of them.

Rush -> Mayfair, Berkeley Square, 1st time no camera.
Leaves on ground. I check trees. It's autumn!
Allow myself to sit for just a few minutes.
Stiff breeze reinforces autumn idea.
Spot several of the last, endangered red phone boxes,
on the hoof. Traditional place.

Back home, rain rolls in. Seminal evening: first
London rain, lose umbrella, top up phone – same place
I buy a mini A-Z.

Day 6: back on tube -> Hampstead CN! Freakin'
gorgeous. Later, when I tell Ali, she laughs and says
my taste has definitely improved from E, W, EC. If
get int. agency job, this is place to live. Lovely
High St., Hampstead Heath (best park). Loving this
commuting thing – eager to start doing it for real
(attachments!) Nero comes through! 1 Hampstead High
St. I'm really making a virtue of necessity w/no
Neros near my room. Bookstore, look for new Tibor
Fischer – new Amis, Ballard, Coupland. Perhaps I got
hung up on Ds . . .

HERE'S what an asset is: Yourself. Your own
capabilities, resilience, determination, smarts,
ability to innovate. (Context: "last trips to London,
think about all the assets I had . . .") [not obliged
to anyone]

Day 7: Out early, it's quite cold. After hours and
days of studying, Cimex interview in Islington – 
aweseom, seedy, SOMA/East Village-ish. Meet with
James, nail it, open, casual, trendy, stylish, bikes.
Canary wharf, 9/11, servers.
Stop shop, 4 walnuts, pear, plum, pistachios, open
nuts under boot heel (eat off path). Trick to nuts:
shell them to slow self down
Caffe Nero Notting Hill Gate: couches, jazz, hot
Italian baristas.

D8: let myself sleep an extra hour, then had tea and
did some work on laptop in room. Then back to NH CN
(like that one). Sent soem mail, talked to some
recruiters, party Saturday in Egham. Lunch crowd
hits, bail out and walk up Notting Hill proper.
Lovely; rich. Sit on bench and eat banana thats' been
warmed by my laptop battery. Gotta like a pub call
Rat & Parrot. First paper Spectator: 175th!

First run: Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park. (A little
dumpy really, like running on a moor.)

Boots: wildly popular, but no toiletries available in
grocery stores

Found winning CN: Kensington High St., one tube stop
(walkable), *2* tables w/power in non-smoking. BOTH
are out of sight, so can not order stuff

D14: run in other park, out to KHS CN, my usual guy,
watches stuff. decide to tube out to Embankment,
wrong train, nice lost old woman, direct her, Twain
quote – most American writer.

D16: Make it on tube -> Embankment [Ali SMS]. Golden
Jubilee bridge ("Hmm, don't remember this one."),
down Thames, London Eye, Houses P, Big Ben – Chris
Knight dance on hour. Photo angle. Protest, unarmed
Bobbies – and guy in body armour, smiling, and happily
tapping tripper guard of HK. Westminster Abbey.

One slightly disappointing discovery has been that
bing American in London is about as distinctive as
being Italian in New York.

3 weeks, end of 1st week work, I'm happy. I love it
here. Warm glow just sitting still. Crossing Tower
Bridge, pint w/friends.

Saturday: laundry, shopping, cleaning, sitting around
eating w/Guardian.

Saturday night out, bday party in Soho, Oyster Card,
through Leceister Square, Chinatown, like bloody
glorious carnival.

Discuss plays with Fifers – Chekov, Porter: We're in
London! Ny – finance, Paris – fashion. London is
beginning and end. It's outside our door! Literally!
Paul, geo-map of women, Latvia/Lithuania/Estonia – I
can get anywhere! Great room, candles, quiet.
Bluegrass guitar player at tube staition, dancing.

1-month anniversary: Tate day. Blackfriars Bridge,
1889, Queen Vic. Late, text Henry.
"Please do not touch or bounce on this sculpture."
"We're in England – there's ALWAYS a pub close." "Hmm,
where might there be a pub? Maybe if we went down to
England/SA - big victory. pub atmosphere, "England!"
strange game, smash-mouth, getting into it.
Japan Centre, food, frustration
Leicester Square, wow, dispatching conundrum,
selfish – want it for me. but also want to preserve
the moment for me. But this is different! I want to
live it! But it's fleeing! (Khayyam verse?) our
earlier conversation about fife's friend shooting and
filming everything. I understand – she's flailing
against her mortality. Fife on painting – wanting to
leave something behind. this is great. Fife, when
down, come here, see people smiling, how bad could
life be? Fife says brilliant to be seeing it through
my eyes, all aglow – it had just become where he


Buy and A to Z.
Buy first copy of Time Out.
Start getting aggravated at bloody American tourists
who won't bloody well stopp yapping on the Tube
Stop relying on the Tube to get absolutely
everywhere, and start learning bus routes.

First outing w/Jacqui
National Portrait Gallery,
Photographers Gallery
Veg place in Soho

glorious Bonfire Day, sitting in St. Paul's
Churghyard, eating bananas and pears, and not reading
Martin Amis. Tonight: Battersea Park. (Been listening
to Hovverphonic's "Battersea" at desk on MP3 player.

Get home from work, head out, back into commuter
throng. 4 stops -> Putney Br., step out, air smells
pungently, gloriously, *autumnal*. London making me
smile. Plenty of workplace angst, reltaed to, well,
having to go somePLACE each day and WORK.

The wiggling, struggling, sperm-like throng of people
on a rush-hour Tube platform, it occurs to me, is
rather emblematic of life in the world – and
instructively so. Consider: You soon realize that:
* Everyone's pretty much in the same boat as everyone
else, and on equal footing;
* Everyone's really just trying to get where they
need to be.
* The vast majority of people really have no desire
to get in your way – much less elbow you out of
* Everything works much better with healthy doses of
patience, humility, and generalized courtesy – and
you're better off practicing these things EVEN IF

Josh Weekend
Tate Modern w/Josh, Mandy, others
Somerset House, Lord Mayor's fireworks
Sunday: Nat History museum, turkish tea house, great
food/conversation w/J,J,&J
2003WPotY Notes:
best of 20.5K entries, amateurs, pros
"Achieving the perfect picture is down to a mixture
of vision, lauck and knowledge of nature, which
doesn't necessarily require an armoury of equipment
and global travel."
Steppe eagle fighting a maribou stork!
Freaking unbelievable – makes me so excited about
photography as an art form.
White Barn owl, trigger, mouse, wings and legs fully
extended – amazing!
5 or 6 from Namibia - 3 from Etosha, 1 from Namib
Best name: Alwin A K van der Heiden Roosen
11-14 y/o category! 10-and-under category!!
Lions surround by tourist tyre tracks in Serengeti
(World in Our Hands). That was me.
Red colobus monkey, Jozani Forest, Zanzibar
*"I positioned the Landrover between the lions and
myself so that I wouldn't distrub their siesta.."
M: "Takes cajones to try to pass that one off."
J: "Yeah – the lions would be disturbed if they had to
come over and eat me."

Korean in New Malden, w/all
Fife: 4 Stages of the Immigrant ("I glow")
"Wow – I've never been punched in the face like that

22Nov03, Sat
run in mist in boneyard
Imperial War Museum w/MM!
Free Stage at Jazz Festival, w/MM & J1
Afghani Kitchen, w Katherine

23Nov03, Sun
run in rain in boneyard
National Gallery w/self, painting 1700-1900
Lunch w/self
Coffe w/self

25.11.03, Tue
Museum of London for lunch, reading in Aldsgate tonight.

Radiohead playing on my block.

lunch, Fri. Sent PS -> Weisberg
Sat in churchyard, serenaded by old guy
London - how could Madonna, Tori Amos, and Gwyneth
Paltrow ALL be wrong?

30Nov03, Sun
First totally low-key weekend (out of 10 or 11). All
shopping, and laundry . . .

And that's where we came in. On the odd chance anyone hung on through that . . .

  random smack     art     books     food     london     photography     the uk     wildlife  
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
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
ARISEN : Last Stand
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 1 - The Collapse
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 2 - Tribes
Black Squadron
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 3 - Dead Men Walking
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 4 - Duty
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 5 - The Last Raid
ARISEN : Fickisms ][ – This Time, It's Personal
ARISEN : Operators, Volume I - The Fall of the Third Temple
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