Previously: Katrina evacuees Brandin Bednar and Jason Ziegler lose their construction jobs at Miller & Long. And with the weather turning colder, Brandin decides to leave Washington, making this the evacuees' final appearance as the subjects of this feature. To catch up on previous episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.
The woman behind the counter at the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles asked Brandin Bednar for proof of residency. A lease with his name on it? A water bill? A telephone bill? He needed one of these documents to qualify for an identification card. But Brandin, 20, had nothing of the sort. The one-bedroom apartment on Rhode Island Avenue NE was not under his name. Neither were any of the utilities.
His wallet had been stolen several weeks earlier, and, without an ID, he couldn't board a plane for his home town, Seattle. He was ready to ditch the District, where he'd wound up after being evacuated from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He and his buddy Jason Ziegler, 26, had been set up with an apartment and construction jobs by people eager to help Katrina evacuees.
But they didn't last as assistant engineers with Miller & Long.
Since then, Brandin and Jason had blown a chunk of their paychecks to rent a giant television, sign up for digital cable and purchase a Sony PlayStation 2. They spent days on end in front of the tube. They'd lost all desire to go out and get wild, which had once been a priority. The cost of drinks in Washington played a part. Also Brandin worried that, thanks to this weekly magazine feature, his cover had been blown at the Georgetown bar where he'd convinced the bouncers that he was 22 years old.
Not willing to stick around town any longer, Brandin remembers turning to the DMV clerk and saying, "I don't have a residence. I live in a shelter." He flashed the green badge that had once granted him access to the D.C. Armory. He'd stayed at the temporary Red Cross shelter for only a few nights. In fact, the armory had been totally emptied of Katrina evacuees several weeks earlier. But the DMV clerk didn't seem to know this. Neither did her supervisor, who, Brandin says, quickly waived the requirement for proof of residency and approved his application for an ID.
To celebrate Brandin's last night in Washington, he and Jason bought two bottles of rum. They got "hamboned" in front of the television, says Jason, who admits that he will miss his "partner in crime." The next morning, Brandin's airport chauffeur knocked on the door. It was a female friend he'd met at a party soon after arriving in Washington. She looked around the apartment, which was littered with food containers, magazines, beer bottles and dirty clothes. "I suddenly don't feel so bad about the mess in my house," Jason remembers her saying.
At that moment, Jason felt a bit of relief that Brandin was leaving. "I'm not a neat freak or anything," says Jason, who plans to find another job and stay in Washington. "But Brandin wouldn't ever clean up."
At the door, they said a quick goodbye with a brief embrace. They'd already promised to meet up in New Orleans in February, at Mardi Gras.
-- Tyler Currie