MaxBarry.com
lol omg he is so 1337

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Sat 28
Jan
2006

Travel Diary: Day #4 (San Francisco, Seattle)

Writing The phone rings. It’s pitch black and I panic, thinking, “How am I going to find the keyboard in the dark?” Yes, it’s 3:50 a.m., and my brain is not working at all.

According to Jen, I sometimes run in my sleep. I must have been doing that, because somehow I have managed to strain a hamstring in my sleep. I hobble into the bathroom and start wrestling with the shower, which, in the manner of all US hotel showers, will only provide water if you turn the tap while simultaneously yanking a plunger on the bath tap. (Why? Why!?) Sometimes I find it’s possible to do this without getting a burp of cold water on the back of my head, but today is not one of those days.

I haven’t had much sleep, but it was continuous and I feel much better than yesterday. And I have a cool ride to the airport: a big black car with tinted windows, the kind that usually have screaming girls beating on them and yelling, “I love you 50 Cent!” Inside there are drinks and snacks available but, I am disappointed to see, no neatly laid out lines of cocaine.

At San Francisco Airport there are 50 people in a check-in line and nobody’s moving. I work out why: all the electronic check-in machines are showing: “Easy Check-In is available from 4:45 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.” Yep, they don’t start work this early. They must have a good union.

When the machines finally come up, there is some kind of system-wide error and everyone needs to get checked in manually. This creates an interesting dynamic, because the airport staff want to stick to the process of requiring us to all try checking in at the machines first, but the passengers quickly realize it’s faster to skip straight to the line to see a human. For a while there is lots of sneaking from the first line to the second, and then a woman—a New Yorker, from her accent—tires of the charade and starts haranguing the staff. “You think we like standing in line? You think we should stand here for fun?” After that everyone is allowed to proceed directly to manual check-in.

Naturally the flight is delayed, so I sit by the gate for 90 minutes, thinking about how much extra sleep I could have had. When we finally get on board, I don’t even try to wait for lift-off: I close my eyes and let the warm, smooth arms of unconsciousness embrace me. I wake up a few times to the alarmed looks of fellow passengers and the lingering echo of my own snoring, but boy, I just don’t care at all.

Seattle is freezing. My new media escort, Tina, tells me that the city recently broke the all-time record for consecutive days of rain (27), but then some sunshine came along and messed it all up. I get the impression that everybody is a little disappointed about this.

The reason I’m here so early is I have a reading at Amazon.com. These corporate events are different from my usual readings, because most of the audience have never heard of me. But it’s a full room—about 50 people—and they can relate to Company’s story, so I get lots of laughs. I also sign a lot of books, because Amazon.com is giving them away free to attendees.

After that it’s bookstore drop-ins. The most remarkable thing about this is an advertisement I see on the back of a bus, which says, “Avoid Accidental 911 Calls: Lock Your Keypad!” It has a picture of a man with a cellphone in the back pocket of his pants, accidentally dialing 911 with his buttocks. Let me say that again. He is dialing 911 with his butt. I wish my ass was that agile. Right now, while I’m writing this blog, it could be making me a cup of coffee.

The other thing that surprises me is a group of young people in the middle of downtown waving signs that sport words like “REPENT” and “HELL.” I occasionally see people like this back home, but they tend to be old and clearly insane. These sign-wavers are clean-cut teenagers, and I find this much spookier.

Back at the hotel I receive a package of new reviews from my publisher. Most are great, but there is also my first bad one. I should have known this was coming, but things have been so dream-like lately that instead it’s an ugly surprise. Even though it’s not completely horrible, I pay way more attention to it than to the good ones, and have to force myself to stop obsessing about it.

For dinner I’ve arranged to meet Greg, who’s an admin on NationStates. Greg and I have been in almost constant electronic communication for the last two and a half years, but we’ve never met before today. Unfortunately, when making this arrangement I forgot that I was in Seattle, because the plan is for me to wait outside my hotel. It’s raining (of course) and, according to my body’s internal thermometer, about minus one thousand degrees. By the time Greg arrives I can no longer feel my toes.

Over dinner Greg helpfully offers to educate me about how tipping works: I simply take 15 - 20% of the meal cost and add $1 - $2 per drink that contains more than 2.9% alcoholic content plus 50% of any discount provided by the barman and 1% for every Tuesday between now and the next eclipse. I think that was it. After doing the sums, I have to explain to the barman that he owes me a $4.50 tip… but in retrospect, maybe I miscalculated.

There is no reading tonight: that’s on Saturday. But I’m excited, because it’s my first opportunity for a really long, continuous sleep. Oh yeah. I’m in the fast lane, baby.

Comments

This is where site members post comments. If you're not a member, you can join here. There are all kinds of benefits, including moral superiority!

Rue (#2001)

Location: NY, NY
Quote: ""But in eighteen dimensions, it's all perfectly clear.""
Posted: 4920 days ago

Hey Max - love the travel diary, it's great to see a writer making such a huge effort to connect with his readers. :)

I've got a problem, though - your stop in New York is in Rocky Sullivans, which, I think, is a pub, and I'm not sure if I'll be able to get in because I'm a minor. I'm going to call the place and check it out, but if they won't let me in, well, I'll just crawl around outside then waiting for your arrival. :(

Machine Man subscriber Katrina (#847)

Location: SF, CA
Quote: "Good sex is like good Bridge: if you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand." -- Mae West"
Posted: 4920 days ago

"Seattle is freezing. My new media escort, Tina, tells me that the city recently broke the all-time record for consecutive days of rain (27), but then some sunshine came along and messed it all up. I get the impression that everybody is a little disappointed about this."

LOL. Yeah.... my mom was unhappy and told me it had stopped raining. Seattlites love setting records with rain. But let me clue you in, that wasn't freezing. :P That was typical Seattle weather. Get out your big umbrella and hold it high above everyone's head until there's just a solid ceiling of umbrellas. And get a decent coat. :P

John (#477)

Location: Seattle
Quote: "Did I do that?"
Posted: 4920 days ago

"The other thing that surprises me is a group of young people in the middle of downtown waving signs that sport words like “REPENT” and “HELL.” I occasionally see people like this back home, but they tend to be old and clearly insane. These sign-wavers are clean-cut teenagers, and I find this much spookier. "

Teenagers? In Seattle? Waving religiously oriented signs? I'm shocked. It doesn't sound like the Seattle I grew up in. (Or rather, am growing up in. Whatever.) Most of the teenagers I know would be egging said protesters for even DARING to make an appearance.
On a rather different note, the reading tonight was great. (I was the one behind David, number 20-something in your website) and I had an awesome time. I'll be around when your next book tour comes around, I'm sure.

Machine Man subscriber Dave (#29)

Location: Seattle
Posted: 4920 days ago

Damn, so I'm not 21-ish, like I said, but more like 29. Still the twenties!

-David, the proof that John has "cool friends".

Tyler Cooper (#1889)

Location: Olympia, WA
Quote: "Welcome intrigue. Welcome sophistication. Welcome Blak."
Posted: 4920 days ago

I'm sorry Mr. Barry, but your media escort was grossly mistaken. Seattle did have 27 consecutive days of rain, but that was not the record. The record was set in 195x(I don't exactly remeber which year, but it was in the 50s) and lasted 33 days.

Despite what you think, we did not enjoy the consecutive rain. You try driving to work or class and seeing nothing but a rush of water on your windshield (followed shortly by a brief period where you realize you are about to drive into a tree).

At the time of writing, your book signing has past, and I managed to miss it, despite being five miles from the bookstore. I apologize and hope it was a great time. I hope you'll be around in the coming years with another great book so I may attend.

Nathan (#4)

Location: Seattle - USA
Quote: ""I have a fictional novel." Sure you do, make sure you call it that to an agent!"
Posted: 4920 days ago

Sorry Max, as we discussed at the bookstore, I was going to be the one to correct you publicly about the rain streak. Unfortunately, that jackass Tyler beat me to it.

Just kidding Tyler.

Anyways, to clear it up, it rained for almost a month at Sea-Tac airport where the record is kept track of for Seattle. In Olympia though, it rained 34 days straight, which was indeed a record.

And Max, speaking of weather shock... you're from Australia, quite a bit warmer there right now than Seattle is at the moment, but take my wife's situation into memory and it'll make you feel better: She's in Fairbanks, Alaska right now (and, I'm sure, just stricken and terribly upset she missed meeting you). The low temperature there for today is negative fifty-four. As in -54. As in EIGHTY-SIX (86) degrees BELOW freezing. The high is -32 or so. And tomorrow, there's a heatwave passing through, with the high temperature hitting a sweat-inducing -27. You know that celebrity we were talking about her having? There are the downsides when your fans are eskimos and one of your sponsors sends you there to sign autographs in igloos :)

Nathan (#4)

Location: Seattle - USA
Quote: ""I have a fictional novel." Sure you do, make sure you call it that to an agent!"
Posted: 4920 days ago

Wow. I just realized I'm member #4. I've been around a long, long time :\

Corbin Cavallero (#2011)

Location: Portland, OR
Quote: "Portland is the best city in the world"
Posted: 4920 days ago

How crowded have these things been? I'm looking forward to your coming to Portland on Monday, but I don't know if I should plan on arriving much before 7:30.

Tyler Cooper (#1889)

Location: Olympia, WA
Quote: "Welcome intrigue. Welcome sophistication. Welcome Blak."
Posted: 4920 days ago

Nathan is correct. I currently reside in Olympia, and we had 34 days straight, ending just last week. After a day or two of the rare sun poking its head out through the clouds, we were back to rain.

Also Nathan, give my sympathy to your wife. I spent some time in Sitka, Alaska. It's no fun up there. ;)

Geordie (#2022)

Location: Alaska
Quote: "Convictions are worthless, and I stand firm by that."
Posted: 4920 days ago

Ha! Fairbanks Alaska. What a great place to grow up in. I've got a pic of an unnamed family member outside with the thermometer pegged @ -60. In a speedo, no less. Oh how I miss the winters... and freezing nostrils... disappearing half-cups of hot coffee when tossed in the air... warming ones car up for 10 minutes before you can drive it and even if you do the tires are all funkdified because they're frozen in a flattened shape but it doesn't matter because I won a mug. Yay.

Gregory Rubin (#72)

Location: Seattle, WA
Quote: "SSIMB!"
Posted: 4920 days ago

Well, I corrected him in person, but wasn't planning on correcting him online and in public as well, but I shall.

*wags his finger at Max*

It was good to see you tonight and I enjoyed the reading.

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 4919 days ago

Sunday 2006

YOU BETTER NOT SCREW UP AGAIN, MAX!

The internet age of young adults is a hard crowd to write to no a days. Everyone can instantly look up any records or statistics that you write about, and then proceed to correct you. They will even "wag their finger at you".

-Adam

PS Twenty-seven consecutive days of rain in Seatle is not the record. It's thirty-three and it happened during the 1950's. Shame on you Max Barry!

Mariah (#1888)

Location: Delaware OH 43015
Quote: ""..and just when i think i've got it all figured out, life steps in to give me, yet another, little twist, in my other wise little world..."-M.E.M."
Posted: 4919 days ago

hey Max! I'm really enjoying the travel journal.. more than that I'm almost depressed because i used to live in Seattle WA.. i now live i Delaware OH.. and some how i seriously doubt that you are going to make your way over here. ::sigh:: You are, undoubtably, one of my very favorite authors. I saw your latest entry about the traveling and I emediately called my Daniel in here just so I could whimper and whine a little over the fact that you were in my home state and i was stuck living here.. with him.. lol. he got a funny look on his face, and i realized how it sounded. oops. lol.
hope you are well Max, enjoy your adventures through the states.
~Mariah

Adam A. (#256)

Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Quote: "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that." -George Carlin"
Posted: 4919 days ago

We are currently at 104 days without any rain. I don't think it's a record (yet), but it's getting pretty close. Yes, the 70 degree winter days are nice, but come on Seattle, share!

Cupie (#1396)

Location: Seattle-ish
Quote: ""You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think." -Dorothy Parker"
Posted: 4919 days ago

I've been wanting to meet you and forgot that last night you were at Elliot Bay and I forgot!!!!!!!!!!! Gah. I'm looking forward to see how that went. Stay warm Max! ;)

Nathan (#4)

Location: Seattle - USA
Quote: ""I have a fictional novel." Sure you do, make sure you call it that to an agent!"
Posted: 4919 days ago

<<How crowded have these things been? I'm looking forward to your coming to Portland on Monday, but I don't know if I should plan on arriving much before 7:30.>>

The Elliot Bay Book store (Seattle's venue for Max) was very good about adding chairs when more people came in. I think it was fairly full, but they made room when necessary which was quite pleasant. I sat in the back on the side (which actually worked out because I was literally right next to the autograph table and, when it was time, was relegated as first in line. Hoorah!). I ended up just squeaking in before starting time because I had some other things that had to get done and ended up parking rather far away. Then, when the shindig was over, met with some friends and grabbed a beer (Note: I noticed the bookstore sold beer! Don't they worry about crazy Barry-ites getting shitfaced and tearing up the joint? Guess not). Then I couldn't find my car. We walked for about a half hour getting harassed by bums--which isn't all that bad until they want to fight you for not paying for their drugs and prostitutes--and enjoying the cold. I'm used to the bums, but everytime I walk around the downtown of my lovely hometown I remind myself of how thankful I am of Washington's liberal gun laws *pats hip holster* :)

Ari (#1107)

Location: somewhere around California
Quote: "Can I be a random member of the moment?"
Posted: 4919 days ago

Love the blogs. I haven't been able to get my hands on your new book yet, but I'm working on it.

Also an easy tipping tip: double the tax on your meal, and that's how much you can tip.

Happy Lunar New Year!
Arianna

SilverCloud (#2038)

Location: SANTA MONICA ,CA.U.S.A.
Quote: "Fortune Favors the Brave"
Posted: 4919 days ago

Sorry I missed you in L.A.,CA., I'm far out in the Desert..It's a 21/2 hr. drive if I start at say 3am, once the sun rises it's more like 5 hrs..
Regarding tipping, we use basic math in California, find out the State Tax and double it, then round off to the nearest dollar..
Many THANKS for your Travel Log, I need my mornin laughs..

Machine Man subscriber David (#1456)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Why are the pretty ones always insane?"
Posted: 4919 days ago

Max, don't sweat the bad review, I just finished Company and I loved it. Funny, funny book, and so depressingly close to reality in many areas (I nearly choked laughing at the dedication, just think in a few years people will read that and say "who?". That's sad.)

I took my own advice and bought the e-book edition as I refuse to wait months for it to be released in Australia and even the 2-3 weeks the hc would take to get here from Amazon.

Actually I bought it twice - the PDF from Amazon (which really sucked formatting-wise when transferred to my Palm TX - please tell Amazon and Doubleday to tell Adobe to either update Reader on Palm OS or get nicked) and then the Palm eReader version from Fictionwise (why didn't I think to check there first? D'oh!) which was great and made reading the second half of the book considerably easier than the first. Given this I hope you will forgive me for waiting for the paperback to appear before buying it in hardcopy.

Have a good trip and plenty of sleep.

Mandithecoolkid (#872)

Location: Apple Valley
Quote: ""Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable, we have to alter it every 6 months" Oscar Wilde"
Posted: 4919 days ago

Looks like you're having an amazing time...I really wish I didn't have to miss the la reading though. =(

Matt (#808)

Location: AZ
Quote: "The only 3 books I've read in the last few years have been from the Barry Collection"
Posted: 4919 days ago

Just got around to reading all 4 entries, and it's good stuff. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy trip to let us know what's going on :)

nuero (#1831)

Location: Nixa, Missouri
Posted: 4919 days ago

These are neat entries.

I actually gave in and read Company in a few days this week, even though I've got three impending deadlines for papers approaching. It was great. Hurry up and get another one out to us!

Neil (#943)

Location: Manchester, UK
Quote: ""Democracy is the worst system, apart from all the others." - Churchill"
Posted: 4919 days ago

The 911 thing: I heard several months back that accidental dialing (mainly sitting on phones) was now responsible for 60% of emergency calls. (I did read of one case where someone called 911 by sitting on their phone whilst organising a robbery with an accomplice. Operators were apparently still listening to the call when they were arrested, having sent police to intercept them.)

I'm surprised to hear that they're advertising about it now, given that (at least here in Britain) the majority of handsets seem to be carefully designed so that the emergency numbers (999 and 112 here; what is it in Australia?) are the only numbers that can be dialed when the keypad is locked.

Being the sort of person I am, I previously thought this though at excessive length. Presumably, designers thought that there might be an emergency in which someone couldn't unlock their keypad. When security lockcodes were common (e.g. on the Nokia 101, which was about the size of a brick), this made sense. On handsets which don't have them, and which DISPLAY INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO UNLOCK THEM IF YOU PRESS ANY KEY AT ALL, it doesn't. The one situation I can imagine where you might have difficulty is if you were in the dark (given that lockcodes serve to deactivate the backlight, so as to save battery power), using an unfamiliar (i.e. presumably someone else's) phone.

Is it me, or is this less than ideal?

Alan Barclay (#1701)

Location: Seattle
Quote: "http://www.alanbarclay.com"
Posted: 4919 days ago

Hi Max,

The idea of a reading at Amazon.com strikes my irony bone.

I worked at Amazon.com for three years (before they laid 800 of us off). It was a place of strange, sudden initiatives that came with no warning or explanation and non-disclosure agreements for everything down to the location of the toilet, full of young people who had never had a secure job in their lives.

When I read Jennifer Government, I thought you were writing about Amazon. When I heard about Company, I thought you were channeling my experience there.

I can't wait to read the book.

Hope you caught some more sleep last night!

Comments are now closed for this post.

Built on Blosxom