For better or for worse, Mark's interview will always be intertwined with the worst
experience of the whole documentary process. It's not Mark's fault in the least, and
he did his best to lessen the small problem that led to a cascading failure, but
there you go. It'll all come clear shortly.
When I left Dennis Cruise's home, heading south to Seal Rock, Oregon, I got stopped
by a police car. The official charge was "Failure to signal for 200 feet while changing
lanes"; the actual charge, I have come to understand, was "Driving While Californian".
Oregonians hate Californians, and the Californians are looked upon as easy targets for
tickets. The west coast doesn't have toll roads like we do on the east coast, and so
the tickets are more expensive. Like, a lot more expensive. Like, I was hit with a $300
ticket for "Failure to signal for 200 feet while changing lanes".
That would have been rotten enough, but the policeman came back with even worse news;
my license was suspended! In Massachusetts! And he knew this and I did not! For this,
he gave me yet another $300 ticket, so now after days of going for the cheapest hotels
and trying to get places to stay with interview subjects, I had now lost well over what
I had saved. The trooper explained that he had the right to tow my car, but was not
exercising that right, and told me I should go settle it. I pulled into a neighborhood
street and tried calling the Massachusetts Department of Motor Vehicles, but guess what;
they were closed for the Memorial Day weekend and wouldn't open for 3 days.
This put me in a major pickle; I had interviews to conduct, a tightly-wound spring of a
schedule that couldn't afford any loss of hours anywhere, and here I was basically
driving illegally. After thinking about it, I decided I would drive as carefully and
within-limits as I possibly could, and limp along until I could resolve the issue
with the Mass DMV that Tuesday. This turned out to be a very fatal mistake.
Seal Rock, Oregon is a tiny, tiny little coastal town far south of Portland. To
get to it, you want to travel along a beautiful western highway (22) until you get to the
coastal highway (101), and then move southward until you find it. This ended up taking a
very long time.
Now, the tiny, tiny part of me that has charity and love about the whole situation
will point out this was the Memorial Day Weekend, a time when there is increased
danger of drunk driving and other such highway mishaps, and that would be why there
was an inhumane amount of police presence on the road. The logical, thinking person in
me, however, wants to point out the following situation I passed going west to 101.
Two police cars, each with their lights flashing writing tickets for two cars. A
quarter mile around the bend, four police cars, all in a row, sitting in their cars.
Two more police cars at the intersection just after these four, with the two police
out and talking. Up a hill, where a ninth police car sat on my side of the road,
with a policeman aiming his radar gun at the oncoming traffic coming over the hill.
This is, essentially, a slaughterhouse. An endless line of tourists driving over a
hill and being pulled over by an assembly-line of police cars, no doubt being
hit with hundreds of dollars of fines for who-knows-what, from dusk until dawn. I
should have known destiny was calling.
It was raining when I got to Seal Rock, and I announced my arrival by immediately
driving over a near-invisible curb, flattening my front right tire. I got a hole of
Mark Nasstrom, my interviewee, and he helped me get AAA to come fix the flat, but
we ended up having to put a donut on it. I called Hertz and they said they could
have me come back to Portland and swap out the car. Great.
My interview with Mark went very well, considering how emotionally messed I was.
Mark was and is a very big advocate for the power of these computer networks and
BBSes for giving communication and accessibility to the local communities of
Oregon. Unlike a lot of places, the coastal cities of Oregon are not necessarily
the richest parts, and making people feel connected to government and community
was one of Mark's goals.
Mark also had a great collection of older computer stuff, which I posed for a
photo with. The interview covered a nice spectrum of subjects besides computers
in civics, but it's obvious that Mark's really proud of the work he did with
interfacing BBSes to government. He also pointed out how the once-per-week
nature of the local papers were no match for the as-you-need-it nature of the
Bulletin Board System. He's right, that's an amazing jump, and this was a great
perspective to get in an interview.
On the way back from Seal Rock, heading north, it was dark and I was now in
a car driving illegally with a donut for a tire. I was going to have to take a
small eastern highway, the same type I'd seen the slaughterhouse on, and
if I didn't stay within the bounds, I'd be screwed.
On the way back, I passed literately a half-dozen police cars and SUVs parked
by the side of the road or pulling people over. I was careful, VERY careful,
to stay one mile below the speed limit....
...and this was my mistake. I was immediately pulled over by a police car,
and the police officer explained to me, after she took my license, that I
had been driving TOO SLOW. Apparently I was "halting the flow of traffic"
by driving under the speed limit. You have to know when the odds are against
you, and in this case, they had them stacked sky-high.
I had gambled, and I had lost. The rental car was towed away into the depths of Yamhill
County, Oregon; I would never see it again. I took photos of the outside of the car,
standing along the road, making sure that if it ever came back that the car had "arrived
dented", I would have proof of otherwise. The police officer, who I will charitably
call an idiot, was unable to understand the concept of the rental car, and kept asking
me for paperwork I couldn't possibly have with a rental. She spent a half an hour
trying to work out the whole procedure of towing my car away, and when it was ultimately
done, she called a cab company and tried to get me to thank her for doing so; I had
my cell phone and didn't consider her charity as such.
This garnered me two more tickets, each again $300. So in one day, I had picked up
$1200 in tickets; it is very unlikely I will drive in Oregon ever again in my life.
The local Indian casino was booked solid, but the taxi driver found me room at a
local inn near Yamhill County. I arranged for a three-day stay with the neat lady
who ran the inn, and assumed I was screwed until I could settle everything. It was
explained to me by the police officer that even though they had towed my car on a
Saturday night, I couldn't retrieve it until Tuesday, when the office re-opened after
the holiday. What crystalline perfection, this scam! After a fitful night's sleep, I
called Hertz, and they said "We'll handle it, go on with your trip", earning a customer
I paid for a shuttle from Yamhill, Oregon to Portland, and then took the train north
to Seattle, intending to continue the interview process. But the damage had been done;
with all this mess, and with my inability to know the status of my license until two
days later, there was simply no way I could dare travel across the US/Canada border
and do interviews in Vancouver. I had to cancel the Canadian portion of my trip,
and I made six interviewees very sad, for no fault of their own. I am still very embarassed