Previously: Hurricane Katrina evacuees Jason Ziegler and Brandin Bednar wind up in Washington and decide to give the city a try. To catch up on last week's episode, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.
On his second night in the D.C. Armory, Jason Ziegler, wobbly from a few drinks in Adams Morgan, returned to the temporary shelter to pick up a free ticket to a Washington Nationals game. "Yeah, I was drunk," the 26-year-old says later. "But I wasn't that drunk."
Evidently officials at the Armory felt otherwise. They strapped Jason to a gurney and loaded him into a waiting ambulance. His buddy, 19-year-old Brandin Bednar, didn't realize Jason was being carted away. He searched the Armory for Jason in vain, then shrugged his shoulders and headed to the baseball game on his own.
Jason spent the game being pricked with needles. He was furious and, he admits, a bit belligerent. Eventually, a nurse unstrapped him from the gurney, and the hospital arranged for a ride back to the Armory.
The next day, Jason and Brandin were introduced to JoAnn McInnis, a 48-year-old interior designer, who, like many locals, showed up at the Armory eager to help Katrina evacuees. She invited the men to stay at her Capitol Hill house until they could find a place of their own.
Through the same Armory connection that led them to McInnis, Jason and Brandin then meet a D.C. businessman who offered to help them find housing.
Today, he is taking them to a one-bedroom apartment on Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast Washington.
Jason is enthusiastic about the place, but Brandin doesn't say a word. There are bars on the windows, and the neighborhood, with a Home Depot as the main attraction, doesn't seem to offer much of a social life.
"We'll have to flip a coin to see who gets the bedroom," Jason tells Brandin. Loser sleeps in the living room. "What about when you're having girls over?" Brandin asks later.
Back in New Orleans, the two men and a third friend rented a large three-bedroom house for $750 a month. In Washington, they discover that many two-bedroom apartments cost more than $2,000 a month. The businessman, who doesn't want his name published, has promised to pay the first two months' rent on this 760-square-foot apartment, which normally goes for $850 a month but is being offered to the pair for $500 a month. By the time the two-month grace period is over, Jason and Brandin hope to be earning paychecks.
They've already met with their new boss at Miller & Long, a concrete company that expressed interest in hiring Katrina evacuees. Jason and Brandin have landed $12-an-hour jobs as assistant engineers. With no experience in the concrete business, they find their new titles hilarious. Their boss has taken them shopping on the company's dime for clothes, boots and tools. All of it is theirs to keep. "I think between us he dropped, like, three grand," says Brandin, his deep blue eyes bugging out. "He said to get whatever we wanted," adds Jason. "So I just grabbed the best stuff."
After they finish touring the Rhode Island Avenue apartment, Jason asks Brandin, "What do you think?"
"I don't know," Brandin says glumly.
"Dude, 500 bucks," Jason says.
"We should at least look for something bigger," Brandin replies.
They should, but they don't. A few days later, they take the cramped apartment.
-- Tyler Currie