all things to no people

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.


Mon 30

Travel Diary: Days 5-6 (Seattle, Portland)

Writing You wake up at LAX. You wake up at SFO. You wake up at Portland International Airport. (Yeah, little Chuck Palahniuk reference for you there. I’m heading to his home town; it seemed appropriate.)

How late do I sleep? 10am, baby! Damn, that’s nice. I haven’t slept in like this since Fin was born.

I don’t have anything scheduled today besides my Seattle reading, but my voice is a little scratchy so I decide not to test it against the icy winds and torrential rain. Instead I spend the day catching up on email and browsing the web. I also get some laundry done via the hotel’s service, but then I forget about tipping the guy who delivers it. Dammit! Now I feel guilty.

My reading tonight is at Elliot Bay Books, and I’m excited because when I was here in 2004, my media escort told me that Elliot Bay was the #1 bookstore in Seattle, the place where all the important authors read. Then she drove me to a different store, to do my reading. Now, however, I have clearly entered the big league.

The bookstore has a great room set up with plenty of seating. Then dozens of people arrive and fill these, so they need to unpack more chairs. This is terrific: I was told to expect lower numbers since it’s a weekend reading, but we have 60 people! I chat to a few of them before the event kicks off, and every single person points out that I was wrong to say in my blog that Seattle broke the record for consecutive rainy days: in fact it only got close. Clearly you don’t want to mess with Seattle residents when it comes to what’s what with rain.

The reading itself is awesome; in fact, the Q&A session is probably the best of the tour so far, with great questions and a really fun feel. At one point a guy starts a question with, “If anyone here hasn’t read the book, you should probably block your ears, but…” and I threaten to brain him with a water pitcher if he continues.

I sign books until the store closes at 10pm, during which I get to meet a guy who’s taken the trouble to stick a barcode under his eye, Jennifer Government-style, and a couple who have driven all the way from Vancouver, Canada. One of them, Milla, took a few snaps during the reading, so you can check me out in action.

On the way back to the hotel, Tina, my media escort, is ecstatic over how well the event went. She fusses over me like a proud mother. If I had any hair, I am sure she would be ruffling it.

I call home and speak to Jen, who is particularly pleased with the nice things I wrote about her in a previous blog. Whenever Jen watches an award ceremony on TV where the winner tearfully thanks his wife, Jen gets all mushy. Then she snuggles close to me and says, “When you win something, you should thank me like that.”

I order a late dinner via room service, and, still feeling bad for forgetting to tip the laundry guy earlier that day, massively overtip. There’s already a 20% gratuity added to the price plus a $2 delivery charge, but I give the guy who brings it to my room three bucks as well. I think this means I end up tipping more than the actual cost of the food. I definitely need more practice at this.

On Sunday morning I don’t get up until 11. Wow, it feels good even to type that. Let me do that again. I don’t get up until 11. Ohhhhh yeah.

Today is very relaxed: I have nothing to do but travel. Outside it’s bucketing down rain (*gasp*), but I brave this to wander up to the new Seattle Central Library. (Warning: picture appears to have had blue sky Photoshopped in.) This miracle of architecture looks like they built a tall office tower, then someone sat on it. I like it a lot, especially the sloping floors. I keep hoping that somebody will drop a pen and I’ll get to watch them chase it from one side of the building to the other.

Before I leave for the airport I carefully go through my bag, because at the last airport I got stung $25 for excess baggage. My problem is books: I am now carrying eight of them, mostly gifts from (a) the generous or (b) other writers who want me to comment on their manuscripts. I am tempted to ditch a couple, but know I will be haunted by their eager, innocent faces. So I start cramming stuff into my carry-on.

I’m flying Alaska Airlines to Portland and am alarmed to see that the airplane has propellers. Propellers! Not only that, but when I squeeze on board, I find myself positioned in the exact spot that they would intersect should they both decide to detach from the wing and go spinning into the fuselage. Although I guess if that happened, my precise location probably wouldn’t matter much. I guess I’d be screwed no matter where I was sitting. This is seat 1D, right at the front of the plane, and from here I can also see our captain, a woman who for some reason I decide looks like a Tammy. I watch Tammy carefully, looking for signs of tiredness or suicidal depression, until my staring causes the hairs on the back of her neck to rise and she closes the cabin door.

The seats are tiny and, judging from the smell, the man beside me has a dead cat concealed on his person. Fortunately it only takes about eight seconds to fly from Seattle to Portland. I’m first off the plane, but I have no idea where I’m going. I take a wrong turn after entering the terminal, and when I turn around to backtrack I see a line of passengers blindly following me. Ha! I want to laugh in their confused faces. Okay, not really. I feel a little embarrassed.

I tip so much between the airport and my hotel room that I run out of dollar bills. This may be developing into a psychological condition.


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!

Machine Man subscriber Dave (#29)

Location: Seattle
Posted: 5042 days ago

I have no idea who in Seattle actually flies to Portland. The train is SO much better, and there's always the car in case you do get dead-cat people next to you. Oh well, at least you got to fly in a plane with real propellers.

Tim Harrison (#1918)

Location: Seattle, USA
Posted: 5042 days ago

Hi Max -- great to see you at Elliott Bay, thanks for the kind autographs. I've seen several author readings there and you were definitely the most entertaining thus far. Of course, on eof the people I saw previously was Al Gore, and his book wasn't so much a, you know, entertianment as it was a crushing reminder that we as a people are all being screwed by Presnit Chimpy.

And I for one loved hearing the Aussie accent come out of Seattleite characters. Been I while since I was in your corner of the world, I rather dig the vocals. (And the trains. Wasn't kidding about the trains. We suck at trains in this city.)

Tyler Cooper (#1889)

Location: Olympia, WA
Quote: "Welcome intrigue. Welcome sophistication. Welcome Blak."
Posted: 5042 days ago

Maan, I wish I could get that much sleep. If I went to sleep now, I'd get a massive four hours, and I still have work to do. Whoo boy...

Don't worry about the propeller planes. I use them every few months traveling between Washington and Idaho. They're loud, bumpy, and seemingly unsafe, but they get you from A to B. ;)

Machine Man subscriber Barry Mitchell (#1001)

Location: Saukville, Wisconsin
Quote: ""A hamster's like a small camel" - Ben Katz"
Posted: 5042 days ago

I've been toying with the idea of showing up to a reading and letting you know that in America authors tip fans at their book signings. But, since you're not to anywhere in the midwest, I guess I won't get to try that out. :)

Thanks for these blog entries... it's been fun virtually tagging along.

Hobbie (#1359)

Location: Cornwall, England
Quote: "There was a little man in his hair!"
Posted: 5042 days ago

Yes, this whole tipping thing is a mystery I think to pretty much anyone outside of America. I mean, I always thought it was a city in China, but then, what do I know.

Brittany O. (#1688)

Location: Montana
Quote: "people are kind of overrated "
Posted: 5042 days ago

The pictures are cool, but it would have ben REALLY great if that person spelled your name right...

kolibri (#2121)

Location: Vancouver, Canada
Posted: 5042 days ago

Heh, I blame the fact that I was really tired and exited when I uploaded the photos ;)

Colm O'Brien (#2140)

Location: Ireland
Posted: 5042 days ago

I was just thinking about this diary this morning and I got that exact image from Fight Club. Zany.

(Also, if there are 1843 members on this site, why am I member # 2140? Hmm...)

Colm O'Brien (#2140)

Location: Ireland
Posted: 5042 days ago

...and you really, really look like a young JK Simmons in one of those pictures.

shabooty (#637)

Location: D.C./V.A/M.D.
Quote: "I will shake your foundation. I will shake the f**cking rafters. Nobody'll be the same -Danny Bonaduce ....& go visit my blog @:"
Posted: 5042 days ago

Maybe the people in Seattle were so amped and enthusasitic cause their team is in the super bowl next week...

Phill Sacre (#1822)

Location: London, UK
Quote: "Computers are like air conditioners. Both stop working, if you open windows."
Posted: 5042 days ago

I want to know how you can calculate the exact spot the engines would intersect if they went spinning into the fuselage... this sounds like a useful thing to be able to do. If you like calculating your chances of survival, that is!

Tom Foley (#1008)

Location: Seattle
Posted: 5042 days ago

Thanks for the reading Max. Did anybody ever take the roadkill doughnut?

Nathan (#4)

Location: Seattle - USA
Quote: ""I have a fictional novel." Sure you do, make sure you call it that to an agent!"
Posted: 5042 days ago

<<Maybe the people in Seattle were so amped and enthusasitic cause their team is in the super bowl next week...>>

True story.

Brian Farrey (#1940)

Location: Minnesota, USA
Quote: ""Excuse me, would you mind not farting while I'm trying to save the world?"--Doctor Who"
Posted: 5042 days ago

Am I the only one disturbed by the whole first time in Seattle experience: "Yes, that's the bookstore where all the IMPORTANT authors will be signing. Nice, isn't it? You, Mr. Barry, will be signing somwhere else...." Does that not smack of overt cruelty?

Machine Man subscriber Grant Henninger (#1438)

Posted: 5041 days ago

So that's why I hvae no dollar bills in my wallet! I tip too much. Nevermind that I don't do anything that requires me to tip somebody, it sounds like as good an excuse as anything. So because of my vast over-tipping, I do not have the money to buy Company. Howerver, I did read the first 35 pages or so at the bookstore over the weekend. I'll buy myself a copy when I get my tipping problem under control.

Bony Tony (#1343)

Location: United States
Posted: 5041 days ago

Max, you are extremely rude. You Australians don't even tip your blogreaders!

Emily (#609)

Location: New York
Quote: "When in doubt, fuck it. When not in doubt, get in doubt!"
Posted: 5041 days ago

I very regrettably must say that I will not be making it to New York City after all. You will simply have to write another novel and come back within the next four years, when I will [hopefully] be attending college twenty minutes away from it. Bah.

Hope your trip continues to be great, and I hope you enjoy this side of the country!


Emily (#609)

Location: New York
Quote: "When in doubt, fuck it. When not in doubt, get in doubt!"
Posted: 5041 days ago

(Regrettably for me, not, I expect, for you. I'd probably muck up any sort of attempt to converse with you, so it's undoubtedly for the better.)

Just to clarify.

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 5041 days ago

Mon. 30 Jan 2006


When I think of tipping, I think of Resevior Dogs. You can learn a lot about tipping by watching the first scene of the film. Only tip if someone else is paying for the food.


PS Abe Vigoda is still living!

Colette (#324)

Location: Houston, Texas, USA
Quote: ""The good Earth — we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy" -- Kurt Vonnegut"
Posted: 5041 days ago

Sorry I missed it. I decided you'd much rather I not come and not give you the flu. :D
Maybe I'll catch you next time.

Incidentally, if I pay for postage, will you sign your book for me?

Tyler Cooper (#1889)

Location: Olympia, WA
Quote: "Welcome intrigue. Welcome sophistication. Welcome Blak."
Posted: 5041 days ago

Tipping is not only confusing to those out side of America. I have been here all my life and still do not understand its complexities.

Eric (#1761)

Location: "The seat of Capitalist Power
Posted: 5041 days ago

Bah, Syracuse gets just as much rain, if not more.

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: ""
Posted: 5041 days ago

The first rule of Book Tour is...

Chris (#2156)

Location: Melbourne, Aus
Quote: "somebody said something once. i can't remember what it was."
Posted: 5041 days ago

what if want to En.hAnc3 mY Se x Li.fe? what if it really needs En.hAnc3ing? i love your membership procedures - joining up made me feel like i was doing someting important (or doing something i might get arrested for) instead of just bumming around in somebody else's life.

i don't really have anything to say, because i'm not in america n' stuff. I just thought i'd better stop being voyeuristic and step out from behind that bush you keep next to your bedroom window...

okay, that's a bit creepy.

SaxSymbol73 (#2157)

Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Posted: 5041 days ago

Regarding the 9-1-1 dialing questions. . .

In the US, many phones have a speed-dial for emergency programmed assistance preset to 9 (corresponding to the emergency number 9-1-1). It is sometimes the only key that isn't "locked" when the rest of the keypad is; in case of emergency, you should be able to easily press one key. The problem is when a fat American ass sits on the phone, pressing that one key, and ringing for help unnecessarily.

We American's are a difficult people to engineer products for, given our penchant for stupidity, illiteracy and obesity. I'm not sure how other companies manage this problem, but that's why it is the way it is in the US.

Machine Man subscriber Bushra (#36)

Location: Fremont, California
Quote: ""
Posted: 5040 days ago

The very first book signing I ever went to was for Chuck Palahniuk's Diary in San Francisco. Except for the appearance of a group of people in Santa costumes, it was a bad experience.

Emily (#1135)

Quote: "The sky is falling..."
Posted: 5040 days ago

Hey Max, I think this is the first time I've actually got around to leaving a comment in here... I've been reading all your posts via the emailed list, and I've always looked forward to reading them, they're all pretty fun. I mean, some blogs are just so dull, haha. Though now it kind of makes me sad to read them, since you'll be coming to New York City and I won't be able to be there. Oh well, enjoy the rest of your tour!

Tyler Cooper (#1889)

Location: Olympia, WA
Quote: "Welcome intrigue. Welcome sophistication. Welcome Blak."
Posted: 5040 days ago

Most other blogs are dull because the author's don't have a sense of humor, or anything interesting worth reading.

Machine Man subscriber Julie Totsch (#1341)

Location: Racine, WI
Quote: ""The world is full of willing people, some willing to work, the rest willing to let them." - Robert Frost"
Posted: 5039 days ago

I just want to say that I pre-ordered my copy of Company from the Elliot Bookstore and I'm looking forward to seeing what you wrote! Maybe, next book, you could show up somewhere in the midwest instead of just flying over us!

Trespassers Will (#2174)

Location: Puyallup, WA
Quote: ""...and if I laugh at any mortal thing, 'tis that I may not weep" - Lord Byron"
Posted: 5033 days ago

I finished "Company", and loved it; although it was confusing having a satire turn into a farce midway through. And I mean "farce" in a good way, you know, as a literary genre. I ordered a first-edition of "Syrup" from and it arrived today. Looking forward to reading it.

During the reading at Elliot Bay Books, you apologized for reading Seattle-based characters in an Aussie accent. I wanted to tell you not to worry. We're readers; we're good at suspending disbelief.

Glad you got home safe to the wife and Fin. Come back to Seattle soon!

Machine Man subscriber Julie Totsch (#1341)

Location: Racine, WI
Quote: ""The world is full of willing people, some willing to work, the rest willing to let them." - Robert Frost"
Posted: 5030 days ago

Max, I received Company two days ago! It is awesome, even though I'm only allowing myself no more than one chapter a day!

Further, thanks for the cool inscription! All my friends are jealous, even though they haven't read any of your books! :-)

Comments are now closed for this post.

Built on Blosxom