MaxBarry.com
will write for food

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

Fri 30
Mar
2007

Travel Diary: Day #6 (Madison, Chicago)

Writing What happens to the soap? Every day I check into a new hotel and unwrap at least one small, packaged, and apparently pristine bar of soap. I use a tiny amount before I leave. What happens to the rest? I can’t believe they’re throwing all that out. I haven’t seen any big soap collection trucks backing up to hotels, and that’s what they’d need to haul away all the leftovers. They must collect the used bars, mold them into new ones somehow, and repackage them. So when I’m in the shower, I’m actually rubbing myself with soap that has passed over hundreds, maybe even thousands, of bodies before mine. Maybe the way to look at hotel soap is as a hundred million invisible skin particles from everyone who stayed there before you, compressed into a sweet-smelling bar.

Feeling more connected to humanity, I head down for some breakfast. There’s a TV running FOX News, and on screen people are agreeing that the only way to deal with Iran’s seizure of British soldiers is to “make them feel some pain.” Anything less, like diplomacy, would cause the UK to become “a laughing stock.” It’s amazing how similar all this is to the last time I was here, and the time before that, and that. The names of the countries change (Iraq, Iran), and the precise issue everyone’s agitated about, but the solution is always the same: send in the military. And I understand that mindset. But I don’t understand how they can still be talking as if it’s February 2003.

A little later I receive the following email from David:

Dear Max,

In today’s blog entry (March 28, 2007) you mention that Finlay crossed her arms for the first time earlier in the day, and express wishes that you could have a picture of this occurrence. I cannot provide you with an actual photograph of this important milestone in your daughter’s life, but I can offer this artist’s rendering of the occasion. I hope that it will convey the situation to you just as well as an actual photograph would have.

Now I don’t really want to encourage people to Photoshop pictures of my daughter. But that completely cracks me up, so I have to share it.

At Madison airport, the woman at check-in is surprised that my final destination is Chicago. I figure out why on the plane: I’ve just about finished buckling up my belt when we commence our descent. I spent more time going through security than actually travelling anywhere.

Chicago is a great city. I’ve been here twice before, once in January and once in July, and I love how completely different it looked each time. And I still think that having a beach right in the heart of the city is one of the best ideas ever. Of course, I’m going to see practically nothing of the place this time except through the window of my taxi. I keep getting great tips for incredible places that I absolutely must visit, but never get to use them. This is not much of a way to sight-see, catching a plane every day.

My reading is at Barbara’s Bookstore, and it’s an especially chatty, interactive crowd, which is awesome. I like that I’ve done enough of these now to be able to relax and have fun—in the early days, it was all a little too nerve-wracking to do that.

In the long line of wonderful people who want me to deface their books, I meet Joe, who rode 11.86 miles on his bike to be at the reading. I know people who drove for many hours to make one of my readings (I believe the record is 6.5 hours), but Joe posits that nobody has ever cycled further than him. So there you have it, people. The bar has been set.

Comments

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Dead (#724)

Location: Ipswich, Australia
Quote: "5'4" and bulletproof."
Posted: 4373 days ago

Brisbane has a beach in the middle of the city, but I'm not sure that counts when the real beach is just down the river.

Jeffrey (#2286)

Location: Right here
Quote: "Mathematics is a powerful language. Just look at how mathematicians destroyed the housing market."
Posted: 4373 days ago

Max,
Thanks for the bit about hotel soaps. I'm never going to open one ever again.

Matt (#61)

Location: Chicago
Posted: 4373 days ago

Max, great reading/Q&A. Good luck on the rest of the tour.

Stephen Atwood (#3007)

Location: Dallas, Texas, USA
Quote: "I'm pretty sure my last words are gonna be along the lines of "careful, I don't think the safety's on"...Probably something like that."
Posted: 4373 days ago

So long as you continue to write, you will continue to be surprised at how many people enjoy reading what you write. I suppose we are all glad that you are willing to endure such measures for the good of the readers. Talk about taking one for the team.

Really, we should do something in return. Like pay you money, or something.

I forgot what I was talking about.

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 @: http://www.shabooty.com"
Posted: 4373 days ago

u need to do more tv interviews
your bald dome piece doesnt reflect too badly on the tube
:)

Flynn (#520)

Location: Chicago, IL USA
Quote: "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."
Posted: 4373 days ago

Great fun to see you, Max...and c'mon you later-on-the-tourh people...let's see how many cyclists can ride long distances to see him!

Flynn (#520)

Location: Chicago, IL USA
Quote: "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."
Posted: 4373 days ago

I should also say that my girlfriend just wanted me to clairfy...that's 11.86 miles each way, NOT round trip. I figured that was obvious, but hey, we should be specific I suppose.

What is the record for furthest distance driven for Max, anyway?

Machine Man subscriber Roger (#1653)

Posted: 4373 days ago

When are you coming to Washington DC?

Caufman (#1791)

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Quote: "The Game."
Posted: 4373 days ago

Great reading, Max!

By the way, Kelsey likes your book, and she hasn't broken up with me yet! I'll keep you updated on whether or not your book turns out to be cursed.

dino (#318)

Location: Peoria IL, USA
Quote: "Hey, Chochacho!"
Posted: 4373 days ago

Bonzer reading, Max! (I'm trying to expand my Aussie slang knowledge after the awesome "raw prawn" inscription).

I'd like to have bought you a pint, but I had to haul my sorry ass back downstate and show up late for work Friday. Maybe you could hold your next Midwest reading in a bar?

Yubi Shines (#1664)

Location: Canada
Quote: "HOPE RIDES ALONE!"
Posted: 4372 days ago

...Which is why I bring my own bottle of liquid soap when I'm on holiday.

*shudder.*

Morgan Jeske (#3027)

Location: Vancouver BC, Canada
Quote: ""Well. That happened.""
Posted: 4372 days ago

Thanks for diary entries, and for this site in general. Your work is fantastic.

Henry T. Monkeypimpenstein (#1212)

Location: Wellington, NZ
Quote: "Monkeypimp: Geeky enough to use his lame NS forum name here too."
Posted: 4371 days ago

Is the soap thing more or less disturbing than the amount of any given hotel room that probably glows under black light?

Stephanie (#2098)

Location: United States
Quote: "Going crazy. Care to join me?"
Posted: 4367 days ago

I'm writing this at the end of the tour as to not creep you out. The number one germ-filled item in a typical hotel room...the remote. It's the one item that doesn't get cleaned. Look it up, it true.

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