• Eugene Weekly Loves You!
Share |

Eugene Weekly : News : 09.22.05



News Briefs: LTD Board Seats OpenString Shop Gets FaceliftFoE Annual Meeting Set | Protest TimeKinky Website Cites Cop Ties |

Splash: The Joy of Fly Fishing

Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes

News:

WEP U-Turn?

Piercy, feds want real look at alternatives to wetland freeway.

News:

Good Booooy!

Obesrvations at the Emerald Classic Cluster Dog Show

News:

Submerged III


An Evacuee's Journal: Just a Little While to Stay Here

Happening People: Nicole West and Melinda McCormick





LTD BOARD SEATS OPEN

Lane Transit District has had a hectic year. A worker strike in early 2005 punctuated accusations of mismanagement by General Manager Ken Hamm, and riders have complained about sweeping service cuts and fee increases. Reactions to the planned Bus Rapid Transit System, which will use hybrid-electric buses for quicker routes between Eugene and Springfield, have been mixed.

Whether you give LTD a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down, you can direct it toward the agency's board of directors, which must approve all major decisions. Three of the seven board members' terms expire at the end of the year, creating an opportunity for change.

Unlike other local agencies funded by public dollars, the LTD board is appointed by the governor rather than elected, in accordance with the state statute. Last legislative session, State Sen. Bill Morrisette of Springfield introduced a bill requiring local election of the LTD board, but the bill died in committee.

LTD board members Susan Ban, Gerry Gaydos and Dave Kleger's terms will expire at the beginning of 2006. LTD spokesman Andy Vobora says that the agency will set a Dec. 1 deadline for potential board members' applications. The governor will then recommend three candidates, and the Senate will confirm or reject the appointments at a January meeting.

LTD doesn't plan to run paid advertisements about the open positions in local newspapers. Vobora says that the governor's office directs the agency not to spend money on recruitment, but governor spokeswoman Holly Armstrong says that LTD is free to advertise as it wishes.

The lack of advertising frustrates LTD rider Dorothy Ehli. "It's a good-old-boy network going on here," she says.

Sen. Morrisette echoes her concerns. "I have always felt that the LTD management makes the recommendations to the governor and that's how appointments are made. It's a closed circle," he says. "There should be some public posting of these positions. We want people over a wide range of socio-economic groups to apply, not just the people who the board thinks would fit. To me, that defeats the whole idea of representation."

Applicants must live within specific geographic areas: north Eugene (east of River Road) and Coburg for Position 4; Central and West Eugene, including the UO area, downtown, and the Whiteaker, Jefferson, and West Side neighborhoods for Position 5; and West Eugene/Highway 99, River Road, and Junction City areas for Position 6. Candidates can download applications from www.governor.state.or.us/Gov/pdf/forms/Interestformdown.pdf Kera Abraham

 

 

STRING SHOP GETS FACELIFT

A musical mural at The String Shop

A fresh new mural is now drying at 1325 Railroad Blvd. off West 1st Avenue in Eugene. The building houses The String Shop. owned by Carl L. Blackwell, specializing in violins, violas, cellos and basses. Blackwell deals, repairs and restores instruments, and has been in business since 1990, at this location since last March. The artists are Amanda Acker and Lauren Kinney.

"For both of us, this is our first public mural," Acker says. "We're doing one in San Francisco's Mission District this upcoming month, and intend to do many more."

 

FOE ANNUAL MEETING SET

Nationally known community planner John Fregonese will be the keynote speaker at the Friends of Eugene annual meeting beginning at 7 pm Thursday, Sept. 29 at the EWEB community meeting rooms.

Fregonese was first recognized for his revolutionary planning initiatives in Ashland in the 1980s and went on to spearhead Portland area planning projects. He currently works as a consultant on regional and urban planning projects in Oregon, Texas, Denver, Chicago, California, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming.

FoE President Kevin Matthews will open the public program with brief highlights of FoE's year, touching on future directions for the Eugene citizen group on land use, transportation and livability issues. A representative of 1000 Friends of Oregon will talk briefly about its current projects in Eugene and beyond.

For more information, contact FoE at matthews@artifice.com or visit www.FriendsofEugene.org

 

PROTEST TIME

Anti-war events are being planned around Oregon Sept. 23-26 in support of national actions planned for Washington, D.C. Saturday through Monday. The massive protest in the Capitol is being organized by United for Peace and Justice, and a contingency from the Eugene area is expected to attend.

The demonstrations, marches and teach-ins are calling for an immediate end to the war in Iraq,. and demanding that U.S. troops be brought home.

Oregon PeaceWorks is updating statewide information regularly on its website at www.oregonpeaceworks.org and in the Eugene area, events are being planned by the Justice Not War Coalition.

A protest is planned at 11 am Saturday at the Federal Building, followed by a public rally at the UO EMU at noon with student activist Brian Bogart. Some Eugeneans are planning to drive to Albany for a 1 pm rally at Monteith Park.

For information on the Eugene events, call Oregon PeaceWorks at 485-1755 or Justice Not War at 606-2877.

 

 

KINKY WEBSITE CITES COP TIES

An Oregon photographers' webpage is devoted to glamorous women trussed up like Princess Tiger Lily awaiting rescue by Peter Pan. Not so unusual, perhaps, but one contributing photographer, "Dan," has a note by his name and portfolio saying "Police Officer in Eugene."

The webpage is relatively mild in content, but the photographer's page includes a link to a hard-core bondage site, with at least one model featured on both sites. On his page, "Dan" encourages women to contact him. He describes himself as a "fun-loving guy" and a "photographer who likes to work with good people … Like to have fun when shooting and you will to. So wanna have lots of fun and a unique and Differant kind of shoot select me. Police Officer in Eugene."

EW checked with EPD and police spokesperson Pam Olshaski says they couldn't find any connection between the site and Eugene cops.

Technically, Olshaski says, "There's really nothing we can do unless we found that he was representing himself in a police officer capacity. … and he doesn't actually say, 'I am a police officer.'"

Olshanski adds, "Well, at least they all look of age."

EPD staff did some research on their databases and determined the shutterbug is likely a Salem-area resident or former resident named Dan Corkill. No phone number for a Dan or Daniel Corkill is listed anywhere in the state. The registered owner of the site (http://modelmayhem.com/member.php?id=2790) is in Florida. The owner of the linked hard-core site is in Maryland.

The mystery continues, along with the rope burns. — Ted Taylor

 

 

Lots of flyfishers will tell you that catching a steelhead on a swinging fly is the greatest thrill in fishing. That may be why people travel around the world to fish for steelies. Walking along the banks of a famous British Columbia steelhead river in the fall, you might encounter anglers from throughout Asia, Europe, and the U.S.

In Eugene and Springfield, we're lucky. We can chase steelies and be home for breakfast. Through the efforts of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, we have a run of steelies hanging out inside Eugene city limits right now.

These are hatchery-reared fish that were released into the Willamette around Eugene a few years ago. Following their anadramous urges, they migrated downstream to the Pacific. For a couple years, they roamed the seas eating a high protein diet that transformed them into powerful fish that returned to the Columbia, swam up the Willamette past Portland and Corvallis, and then finned into Eugene.

That's where the anglers come in — we can float the river or walk the bike paths along the river between Island Park and Delta Highway and swing flies for steelies. That's right — we can fish for steelies on our way to Autzen Stadium, after shopping at Valley River Center, and on the way across the river to the hospital.

What's so special about these fish? Think of your basic rainbow trout on steroids. With an attitude. They range from 20 to 36 inches long, and from 4 to 15 pounds. They are strong and fast. When one grabs your fly, you might first think that someone is trying to pull your rod from your hands. That's why most people lose the first steelie that grabs their fly — the fish yanks, the angler yanks back, and the line parts. The fish swims away and the angler gets the shakes.

But just because these fish are in town, don't think they are easy to catch. Chasing steelhead is more about fishing than about catching. First, you need to find the fish and then you need to swing your fly in front of them.

This is not dry fly fishing, where you toss a delicate imitation of a tiny caddis fly out to drift along the surface. With steelies, you cast almost directly across the river so the fly swings across the current below you. Some steelhead flies look like something pulled off an Easter bonnet. Keep it simple and swing a big black fly with some sparkle. And hang on.

Sure, standing in a remote British Columbia river fishing for wild steelies sounds like fun. But even when you're standing in the Willamette between Glenwood and Springfield listening to I-5 traffic, the yank of a steelhead grabbing your fly can make you feel like you're touching the wild. What a great place to live! — T. Linz

 

 

SLANT

One consensus came out of architect Otto Poticha's speech about Eugene's City Hall to the City Club last Friday: Let's look at all the options. Maybe keep the present pavilion and add a new office building, maybe move into the old Federal Building, maybe tear it all down, maybe retrofit for earthquakes, maybe move the police out. It's time for a Eugene conversation.

We came away from Congressman DeFazio's masterful town hall meeting Monday at Campbell Senior Center with a much better understanding of how tough it is to be a Democrat in Bush's Washington. DeFazio explained to a standing-room-only crowd how these Republicans have radically changed the rules in the House in the last decade in a way that no one before them in the history of the country had done. "Absolutely disgraceful" is his description of this Congress. The solution? A new Congress with a Democratic majority after November 2006.

Last week's Slant section included a clever, unattributed little blurb called "The Battle Hymn of the NeoCons" that has been circulating on local political e-mail lists and has even gotten air time on local talk radio KOPT. Sing along and follow the bouncing ball-busters. Turns out the snarky stanzas were penned by Eugene political pundit and blogger Hart Williams. There's an additional stanza about "barking moonbats" at www.hartwilliams.com

Speaking of ball-busters, did anyone catch "Real Time with Bill Maher" Sept. 9 in which Maher called on Bush to resign? "Mr. President, this job can't be fun for you anymore," he said. "There's no more money to spend — you used up all of that. You can't start another war because you used up the Army. … On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two trade centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans. Maybe you're just not lucky. I'm not saying you don't love this country. I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side." You can find the full transcript at www.billmaher.com

The Bush White House plans to pay $200 billion for Katrina rebuilding without increasing taxes on the wealthy. Look for more cuts in education, environmental programs and social services for the poor. What does it take for people to wake up and notice that the neo-cons want to starve any government function that doesn't serve short-term corporate interests?

The Sunday Oregonian mentioned Jim Torrey as one of "five independent Oregon voices ... who could help fill Oregon's leadership vacuum." The big O described him as "Eugene businessman. Twice elected mayor, now running for state Senate. Gutsy, tough, respected. Willing to stick his neck out for public schools. A Republican who marches to his own tune." First Torrey will have to march past the popular Sen. Vicki Walker, who we hope will run for re-election rather than going for governor. We need Vicki in the Oregon Senate.

Our reigning Slug Queen Scarlett O'Slimera, aka Joanie Cypress, is abdicating her crown Friday evening at the Park Blocks downtown. The predictably surreal annual competition and coronation festivities begin at 6:30 pm, rain or shine. Queen Scarlett will join the esteemed Old Queens of Eugene and we wish her well. She has carried out her royal duties with Southern charm, grace, energy and humor. Some folks in town would just as soon see Eugene's Slug Queen tradition fade away. The whole thing is just too embarrassing, outrageous and undignified. Well, get over it! Long live the Queen!

Our cover story two weeks ago (9/8) on Michael Tisserand's adventures as a refugee in his own land, and the follow-up story last week, continues this week on our website, eugeneweekly.com. Tissereand, displaced editor of the New Orleans Gambit Weekly, sends his latest dispatch from the Cajundome. It's a good read from an insightful and observant writer.

The swifts are back, diving into the tall chimney on Agate Hall, 18th and Agate, on their fall migration. They fly into the chimney about sunset (7:15 pm this week) and tumble out about sunrise, 7 am. This was true early this week, but the graceful little birds could have moved on by press time. They don't divulge their itinerary.


SLANT includes short opinion pieces, observations and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, editor@eugeneweekly.com

 

 

WEP U-Turn?

Piercy, feds want real look at alternatives to wetland freeway.

BY ALAN PITTMAN

Eugene may finally get a chance to really look at alternatives to the West Eugene Parkway, the $160 million freeway state highway planners want to slice through endangered wetlands.

A wide swath of wetlands would be filled if the WEP is approved.

Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, who questioned the WEP in her campaign for mayor last year, again questioned whether the parkway should be a top priority for limited highway funds at a Sept. 15 meeting of the Metropolitan Policy Committee (MPC).

Piercy called for a look at alternatives to the parkway that would meet transportation needs while still saving the wetlands, and issued a list of nine principles. Piercy's principles state:

• West Eugene has "significant traffic problems/issues ... that have long needed resolution," but also has "nationally recognized" wetlands that "are a highly valued educational, recreational, and environmental asset."

• "Our community needs a solution to the traffic problems that does not reduce the integrity and value of these wetlands."

• The WEP's "current configuration would make only a minimal impact on the traffic issues and would negatively affect the wetlands."

• The WEP "is likely to face legal and other community challenges for years to come" with the support of only half the city, and both the federal Bureau of Land Management and Army Corps of Engineers questioning the project. The costly WEP debate "interferes with other transportation projects getting approval."

• A third party with skill at conflict resolution "could help us find a creative solution that would address the traffic issues, protect our wetlands, and replace an extraordinary level of community acrimony with a community solution we could all respect," Piercy stated.

What impact these principals will have remains unclear. Under MPC bylaws, Piercy and Councilor David Kelly, the other Eugene delegate to the regional planning body, could potentially veto the WEP at the MPC. But it's unclear if such a veto vote would be binding. The anti-environmental majority on the Lane County Commission may have the final say on the matter.

It's also unclear if Piercy and Kelly would take such a vote against the WEP without first consulting the Eugene City Council. Previous Mayor Jim Torrey took pro-WEP votes without consulting the council, but a new council policy could require Piercy and Kelly to follow direction from the full City Council on the matter.

The WEP has never come before the current council for a vote. A key swing vote would be Councilor Andrea Ortiz, who has questioned the traffic impact of the WEP on her ward, but who disappointed progressives recently in voting, in effect, for a $10 million tax break for Hynix.

Mary O'Brien, a local ecologist and leading WEP opponent, said any vote on the council or the MPC won't be directly for or against the WEP, but instead will call for an examination of alternatives. "Kitty is not going to do an up or down, yes or no on the West Eugene Parkway," she says.

For decades, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has argued that it has considered relevant alternatives to the freeway and the WEP is the only option. The highway department says it can build the freeway while preserving wetlands by replacing wetlands destroyed with restored wetlands elsewhere.

But federal regulators could take the steam out of ODOT's steamroller approach. The Army Corps of Engineers, which must approve wetland fills, rejected ODOT's call for the Corps to pass on the WEP in a "pre-application process" even before the latest iteration of the freeway proposal goes out for public comment. In a Sept. 9 letter, the Corps' permits chief Teena Monical wrote ODOT that their proposal was "inappropriate," "premature" and "inconsistent" with federal regulations.

A key question is whether the required environmental impact statement (EIS) for the freeway will include a "purpose and need" statement broad enough to allow fair consideration of transit and other non-freeway road improvements as alternatives to the highway through wetlands. Local environmentalists have complained for decades that ODOT has stuck to a narrow needs statement that appears to make the wetland highway the only option.

But now, Monical says federal law prohibits ODOT "from taking any action that would limit the choices of reasonable alternatives" in the EIS. "EIS's are to serve as the means of assessing the environmental impact of proposed agency actions rather than justifying decisions already made."

The Corps notes that applicants are only allowed to destroy wetlands after disproving the presumption "that a less environmentally damaging, practicable alternative exists that would avoid the loss of wetlands."

O'Brien says ODOT's proposed mitigation for destroying wetlands won't make up for the fact that the freeway will sever one of the largest, best preserved wetlands remaining in the Willamette Valley.

The Corps' Monical notes that ODOT has not yet completed a study of how water flows through the wetlands to avoid drying out sections of it with a highway berm. Monical writes that until the study is complete, it's premature for ODOT to push forward on the EIS.

Monical notes that "ODOT has expressed frustration with the progress" on the permit process, but writes that the Corps must consider both ODOT's and the public's perspective and exercise "independent judgement in defining the purpose and need for the project."

 

 

Good Booooy!

Obesrvations at the Emerald Classic Cluster Dog Show

BY SUZI STEFFEN

The wind brings a miasma of unmistakable dogginess. Yellow signs on the grass read "No Dogs on Grass! Please Use Relief Stations Provided." Inside the exhibition hall at the Lane County Fairgrounds, cries of "Do you deserve a COOK-EEEE?" and "Good booooy!" echo off the dog cages parked at every turn. Women and men, well-groomed and dressed in crisp suits and sensibly flat shoes, swarm the building with even better-groomed dogs.

It's 11:45 am on Sept. 9, the second day of the Emerald Classic Cluster Dog Show, sponsored by the McKenzie Cascade Dog Fanciers and the Eugene Kennel Club.

Epic, a cocker spaniel dog (that is, male), with owner/handler Linda McClain of Tacoma.

The junior competition is supposed to be starting soon. But there's a problem: the popularity of German shepherds. Someone scheduled them ahead of Junior Showmanship. When you're talking German shepherds, you're talking numbers. The ring can accommodate about eight of these large dogs at a time. There are 49 shepherd entries. Teenagers dressed like corporate professionals sigh in exasperation, but they're used to it. They're in training, so it's a sort of hazing.

Near a ring down the aisle, fluffed and groomed cocker spaniels stand at the ready. One dog, Epic, has a coat that sweeps down like an 18th-century hoop dress, almost brushing the floor in one blazing white skirt. Next to the cockers, three Hungarian pulis, whose fur is composed entirely of long black dreads, loll beside their owners. The juniors also watch and wait.

"I was born into this," says Allison Biesiedzinski, a 14-year-old high school freshman from Duvall, Wash. She takes a piece of bait out of the pocket of her suit jacket and tells her beagle Johnny to stay.

"Johnny's so good," says her friend Cheyenne Schlecht, a 13-year-old eighth-grader from Vancouver, Wash. "He's practically a push-button dog."

Cheyenne has her own push-button golden retriever at home. She's been to the Big Kahuna, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, with that dog. But she brought her new dog, Simon, to Eugene. He's a preternaturally calm Irish setter sporting royal blue wraps on his long, beautifully groomed ears, making them look like cotton candy cones. The wraps are to keep him from drooling on them.

In the shepherd ring, it's time for the Winner's Bitch competition.

McKenzie Cascade club member Kris Hoffman explains that each judge has studied the American Kennel Club's breed standard. "In his mind," she says, "he has the picture of a perfect animal."

The best male is called "Winner's Dog," best female "Winner's Bitch." The bitch, the dog, and any specials (champion animals) compete for Best of Breed, and Bests of Breed compete for Best of Group. Best of Group animals compete for Best of Show each day. By Sunday night, four animals will be called Best of Show.

Six people show their shepherd bitches in the ring. Two of the animals trot more alertly, their coats shinier and more full than those of the other bitches.

When the first bitch, handled by a tall white man missing his suit jacket and wearing sneakers, starts her run, a woman speeds around the corner and claps rhythmically so the bitch will look up.

The second bitch runs with the only adult person of color in the hall, who wears a light blue jacket and pink shirt. His bitch is also gorgeous. When she begins her solo turn, a squat, wide white man in a Yankees T-shirt and baseball cap huffs over to clap and yell. He's a bit too late, and the bitch ignores him.

The judge shoots two fingers at Sneaker Man and his bitch. They've won.

Pink Shirt hisses to Baseball Cap, "You need to get her going forward!"

The clapping people, Allison and Cheynne say, were "double handlers." Double handling is not an American Kennel Club-approved activity. It's grounds for what Hoffman politely calls "excusal from the ring" when a judge notices and takes action. But in the shepherd bitch competition, the judge doesn't seem to notice.

It's Winner's Dog time. Another woman zips in front of the girls, holding a bag of bait that she shakes in the air at a dog in the ring. The girls nod knowingly: This is double handling.

One of their peers, Lacy Williams, arrives with her white miniature poodle Roxie. Roxie's coat is shaved clean in some places and poofed in others — a "show clip," Lacy's mom says. Lacy combs Roxie's topknot and sprays her with Super Hold.

"Hairspray is supposed to be illegal," she says cheerfully, "but everybody does it."

The AKC prescribes only water for an animal's coat, but Cheyenne and Allison explain "chalking." Groomers or handlers use a cholesterol cream to affix powder to the animal's coat before it goes into the ring. Allison picks up Johnny's creamy paw and says, "Like, this needs chalk. It's supposed to be white."

Cheyenne removes Simon's ear wraps. "I need to chalk his nose," she says. But not today.

A nearby adult says that she thinks a certain breed's owners almost always use baby powder on the coat — "but I'm not pointing fingers," she says. "We all do something."

Lacy keeps spraying Roxie until it's time to head into the ring.

Intermediate Junior Showmanship doesn't take long. Allison's beagle Johnny commits a grave error — he cowers. Allison gets him up and going, but their momentum is lost.

Still, every junior earns a ribbon. Cheyenne barely acknowledges hers, for she and Simon must dash to the Sporting Group ring.

After a few tense minutes, Cheyenne and Simon remain in the parade as the judge makes his decision. He deliberates, then points for fourth place, third, second, and the winner.

Simon doesn't make the grade. Maybe next time. Maybe with chalk. "Good booooy," Cheyenne says quietly, and moves on.


Suzi Steffen is a Eugene free-lance writer, and a graduate of the UO Journalism School's Literary Nonfiction masters program.

 

 

 

Submerged III

An Evacuee's Journal: Just a Little While to Stay Here

By Michael Tisserand

Lafayette, La.— She just stares at me, the Iowan volunteer. Silver and green Mardi Gras beads drape around her neck. She pushes a blank form across the table.

"It's been a long day," she says.

Sitting next to her, another volunteer quickly smiles. "Welcome," she says. "You came to the right place."

I tell them both it's OK, that I'm from New Orleans. I want to spend the night here at the Cajundome, one of a westward line of stadiums from Baton Rouge into Texas that have become homes for thousands of evacuees. Some of these shelters have been given their own zip codes

I look at the form. Name, address, any phone numbers. The smiling volunteer asks me three questions, all medical.

Do you have a cough? Do you have diarrhea? Do you have any open sores?

I have my driver's license with my New Orleans address, but nobody needs to see it. The smiling woman goes to the walkie-talkie. She calls for a runner to bring me inside. Silence.

"Where are all the volunteers?" asks the Iowan.

"They're dropping like flies," says the smiling woman.

A few more minutes pass. We make small talk, the refugee and the Red Cross volunteers. On the table between us is a spiral notebook, with "Banned and wanted list" handwritten on the cover. I ask if it's a list of known criminals who might try to get in. No, the Cajundome has a no-discrimination policy. The notebook is a list of residents who broke the shelter rules.

More walkie-talkie. The two women speak quietly to each other. There seems to be a problem with people showing up here and thinking they're going to get money.

Skip, a lanky and good-humored volunteer from Michigan, ambles up. He sees me through an airport-style metal detector, asks what I brought with me. Nothing, I say. He takes long strides through the concrete corridors that circle the Cajundome. Clusters of cots are everywhere. Cardboard boxes of torn paperbacks and old children's toys. Walls are papered with typed or handwritten job offers for mechanics and manicurists. Every morning, a bus of day laborers leaves to clean up in New Orleans, for $9 an hour. Other signs state, "Report all child abuse to sheriff."

Skip asks me where I'm from, what I think I'm going to do next. I answer the first question. New Orleans. Before that, Minnesota. Ah, he says, Garrison Keillor. He has me pegged as a journalist. He doesn't seem to care.

Everyone here wears name tags to mark them as either residents or volunteers. Residents' tags include a photo, name and New Orleans address. You can read all the addresses, the old streets and neighborhoods, as you walk past them. Freret. Iberville. Central City. Ninth Ward. I see people who live just blocks away from where I live, where I work. Others from across town. We're all jumbled up now.

Skip enters Exhibit Hall A, a large room adjacent to the dome. He goes to a section lined with metal shelves and loads me up on supplies: a long box containing a new metal folding cot; a rolled-up, shrink-wrapped piece of foam; a bundle of sheets, laundered and wrapped in plastic; a Red Cross Comfort Kit with toiletries; a pillow. "This is quieter than the Cajundome," Skip says, steering me toward Exhibit Hall B. He finds an empty space near the door and starts setting up the cot.

On one side of my cot is a dirty box spring and mattress that's covered in blankets, old stuffed animals and a new pink Dora the Explorer backpack.

On the other side, an old man squeezes Fixodent onto his dentures. He's from Hollygrove, a neighborhood I'd driven past every day in New Orleans. He's alone; he left when the water in his living room got to two feet. Another guy here says he got up at night to take a leak and saw the water rising around his legs.

The cot is assembled: my new address. Sleeping quarters, the Red Cross calls it. Frequently, you hear a loudspeaker announcement that directs residents to their sleeping quarters.

Skip gets ready to leave, then fixes on the pillow, which is matted and awash in brown stains. "Sorry about that," he says. Then he shakes my hand and is gone.

***

The evacuees I know are all staying in homes, except for a few in hotels. I'm currently bouncing between a friend's living room and his 2-year-old son's bedroom. His son comes into his bedroom during the day, sees blankets and papers on the floor, backs out and shuts the door again.

We've landed and now we're trying to put the old puzzles together when so many pieces are missing. Some of our jobs are coming back, others aren't. Some schools are opening, others aren't. Some of us have seen our homes, and they're OK. Others have lost everything they own to wind, water and mold.

Those first days after the storm, as we cared for our kids and followed the horrors on CNN, the Cajundome was opening up as one of the country's first Katrina shelters. Thousands of New Orleanians were moving through the dome and into the dome. They came in buses that traveled across Interstate 10 without making bathroom stops. They landed here even when they were supposed to go somewhere else, the local daily reported. They arrived before cots were set up, say early volunteers, and long before the Federal Emergency Management Agency came near the scene.

***

Buses pulled into city after city. In Austin, Texas, a friend of mine was watching TV when he heard the call for a hundred volunteers to help out at the Convention Center. He assisted people getting off the buses, directing them to cots or triage. He'd try to determine how many people were in each group. "Do you have anybody else with you?" he asked one man. "They're all gone," the man said.

The Red Cross has provided Katrina refugees with more than two million overnight stays in nearly 900 shelters in 20 states, according to latest estimates. Other shelters around the Lafayette area included the Rayne Civic Center, in a town of about 8,500 known for its frog-export business. I went there on Monday, Sept. 12, after I read in the paper that the evacuees were getting moved out the next day to make room for the annual Rayne Frog Festival. When I showed up, the arena floor was already scrubbed down and a carnival was setting up on the front lawn. The Ferris wheel was taking its first practice spins. Someone told me that the evacuees had all been bused out at 9 a.m. the previous Sunday, ahead of schedule.

Behind the Civic Center, I found a small group of evacuees living in recreational vehicles. They'd just gotten moved off the front lawn to make room for the carnival. I talked with one old woman in a faded housecoat, who sat in a folding chair in front of her daughter's RV. A volunteer had been helping her use the Civic Center computer to check on her son. He was in an intensive care unit when the hurricane struck; he is still missing. When the Civic Center closed, the old woman says, she was told that the Rayne public library has a computer. She hasn't gone yet.

Where are the Rayne Civic Center evacuees now? I was told that many went to the Cajundome. I was also told that people in Rayne have been truly wonderful, but it's hard, this moving around.

The Cajundome isn't as well-known a Katrina shelter as the massive Houston Astrodome, which has been visited by Dr. Phil and Mickey Mouse. But Lafayette made the news a couple times during those first days. Sen. David Vitter and Rep. Charles Boustany, both Republicans, met crowds of evacuees here. "We've waited too long without answers," said Boustany, a week before he started to more closely follow the lead of White House operative Karl Rove, who is now heading the New Orleans reconstruction.

On Sept. 2, the day President George Bush went to Mobile, Ala., to praise then-FEMA head Michael Brown, the First Lady stopped by the Cajundome. The White House's Web site features a number of photos of her here, dressed in a cream-colored pants suit, administering aid. A typical caption reads "Laura Bush leans down to comfort a woman and her young child inside the Cajundome ..."

Lafayette resident Seth Touchet was volunteering in a makeshift computer room that day, helping evacuees find family members and fill out FEMA forms. The Bush visit shut down both the computers and the kitchen for about three hours, he says. With nothing to do, he and a kitchen worker watched as Bush aides hand-picked evacuees to be photographed receiving a plate of food.

"We were disgusted," he says. "There were still people literally dying to get out of New Orleans at that point, and the federal government really hadn't done anything. The folks here were the same folks who'd been in on the bridges, in the Superdome."

New Orleans isn't even in New Orleans anymore, but in many ways it's still a divided city. In Lafayette, it's divided between home evacuees and shelter evacuees. Like most divisions in New Orleans, this one generally falls along racial lines. Most of the evacuees in the Cajundome are African-American; nearly all the home evacuees I know in Lafayette are white. You don't see the borders until you test them. A friend who's a home evacuee in the town of St. Martinville showed up at the dome with her daughter, a fourth grader. They wanted to help. A volunteer turned them away, telling them that people from New Orleans should be relaxing.

I also showed up at the Cajundome during that first week. There were thousands of New Orleanians here and I just wanted to find anyone I knew. That's really all I wanted to do that week -- locate everyone I knew in the city and determine where they had landed. The Cajundome staff turned me back, too. If I wanted to find someone, I could page them, they said.

Then I thought I'd enter the Cajundome with a press pass, but I heard that was getting difficult, too. Security was tightening. So one afternoon in Lafayette, I left a message for my wife. I'd see everyone the next morning. I was checking in.

***

My cot is one of about 200 in Exhibit Hall B. Many of these cots are filled with people sleeping. Some rarely leave their cots the entire time I'm there. I never see any help for them.

Currently, 2,202 evacuees are in the Cajundome, according to The Daily Dome, a pink sheet of announcements that I see posted in various spots around the arena. There are cots in the dome, in the exhibit halls, in the back hallways, in the TV room. Some are single cots; others are pushed together and stuffed with belongings, like small rooms without walls.

There is, of course, no privacy. Everybody sees everybody else sleep, read, take medicine, play cards, braid hair, laugh, cry, or do nothing at all.

There are reminders everywhere that the Cajundome is just a way station in a building designed for other uses. My cot is in an area marked "concessions." A few tables are set up for medical help and counseling near a sign that says "premium cocktails." Taped-up signs point you to Narcotics Anonymous meetings, housing seminars, jobs, a bank of bolted cell phones, haircuts, meals, showers, church.

Outside, between the exhibit halls and the dome, is a little concrete park. People go there to smoke. A group of teenage volunteers in matching orange T-shirts set up to play Christian rock. An area cordoned off by barricades is a basketball court. Two Lafayette cops lean against their police car, watching young men sink rainbow jump shots while children run around the players' legs. Children are everywhere.

I see Randy, who signed in the same time I did. (I told evacuees I met here that I was publishing a journal and that I'm not using any of their real names.) Randy is chatting easily with two Air Force guards. Like everyone I meet at the Cajundome, Randy rode out the storm and left a couple days later. And like many of us, he had situations in life that Katrina hopelessly complicated. He calls his ex-wife's house but her new husband answers. There's a final paycheck waiting for him but he can't get to it. Tomorrow is his daughter's 15th birthday. He is trying to figure out how to get to her.

"I don't have any presents for her, but I thought I would give her me!" he says. He laughs at how crazy that must sound. But he's not going to manage that present, either.

Cops, armed military guards, lights-out at 10 pm, cots, concrete. After only a few hours here, I have to keep reminding myself that the Cajundome isn't a jail. City buses pass by on a regular schedule. You can leave anytime you want. But where? Why?

Randy and I watch the Christian rock show, the altar call, the teenagers praying over the evacuees. He takes off. I return to watching the basketball game. Then I look around. An old man in a wheelchair and long grey hair, a lit cigarette in his mouth, is pushing a small red fire truck to a tiny girl. She seems to be about 3 years old. She pushes it back. He leans over and pushes it to her. Back and forth. Her mother watches from a nearby bench.

I look back to the basketball game. Then I hear the man say, "See you later." I turn and see him wheel up a ramp into the Cajundome. The girl moves over to her mother's feet. Her face twists up and she begins to cry. It is an unspecific cry, a miserable cry. A teenager walks by and absent-mindedly kicks the fire truck. It clatters away. The girl doesn't notice.

I get up to retrieve the fire truck before it gets kicked farther. I push it toward the little girl. It gently bounces off her leg. She pushes it back to me. I sit on the ground and we start up the same game. Back and forth. Then another girl, a little older, sits down between us. We make a small triangle with our legs and keep the game going.

A boy sits down beside me. He wants in. "Where do you go to school in New Orleans?" I ask. "ISL," he says. International School of Louisiana. A charter school in Mid-City. Some of my best friends send their kids there. He's from my world.

We keep on, now forming a square. After a while, the game breaks up. The little girl climbs into her mother's lap and the boy leads me to his grandmother, and then his mom, Linda. They're all staying in the dome, their sleeping quarters under the Jumbotron.

Linda's family evacuated to a downtown hotel near the Superdome, where her mother worked as a housekeeper. It's what they do for every hurricane. For days, they survived in the hotel, with the manager of the nearby Walgreen's providing supplies. At one point, Linda saw two women, both in their 90s, walking with little purpose through the flood. They were St. Charles Avenue ladies, Linda says. She brought them with her, to the Causeway bridge where people were fainting, and then on a bus to the Cajundome.

Neither of us mention it, but it's a fact: last week, Linda likely saved two lives.

Right now, Linda's working through her new life in the Cajundome. She wants to keep her son's French language studies going, so she's not taking the first school they offer.

We're talking quietly. We talk about keeping it all together, how hard it gets. Someday in the next weeks or months, she'll be moving. The Cajundome is getting an emergency loan to keep it from going broke. Some other kind of housing is in the works, but nobody knows the time line. Linda says they're pushing -- no, encouraging -- people to move on. She has a cell phone; we trade numbers. She turns back to her kids, readying them for sleep. "I feel at home here," she tells me.

***

Home evacuees, we talk about the city constantly. Who's going in to check out the house, what's the latest on the flood waters, the politics of reconstruction. The only time I ever hear groups of shelter evacuees talking about New Orleans is in the corridor where a TV shows CNN day and night. People sit in plastic molded chairs, reacting loudly to old footage of buses sitting in water. Buses that should have carried people out. They talk about not going back.

There's a man here wearing his pressed airport shuttle shirt. A woman who drives a city bus in New Orleans; her husband conducts the Canal streetcar. Someone who's the head custodian at an Uptown school. We talk about our neighborhoods, blocks away from each other.

An announcement: Ten minutes to lights out. I make my way to Exhibit Hall B. The mattress inches from my cot is now filled with its family. Kids are buried under the blanket; adults are talking quietly. I sit down, pick up my package of sheets and untie the twine. I lift up a plain white sheet. Right in the middle are two circular eyeholes. One Halloween night, somewhere out there in America, this was a ghost.

The lights dim and a woman's voice comes over the loudspeaker, reading Psalm 89: Thou dost rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, thou stillest them. Then a lullaby of people coughing, babies crying, the rhythms of breathing. The door opens and shuts with a hollow, metallic sound as people walk out for a smoke. They nearly brush past my cot; with my eyes closed, I can sense their shadows falling over me.

These past three weeks, my experience of New Orleans has been in people's homes, sitting in living room, talking with friends. At the Cajundome, there are reminders of a larger city that every day seems to slip a little further away. A city where people live and work together. Where they have their stories, and you have yours. You meet in line at the store, you meet at Mardi Gras. You ride their streetcars, they read your newspaper. You might be worlds apart, but every day, you have at least some small chance to know each other a little better.

When I wake up the next morning, women are ironing clothes on folding tables. The bus of day laborers who will clean New Orleans is pulling out; children sit in a line waiting to be taken to school. I get in my car and drive back to my friend's house. My daughter runs to hug me when I walk through the door.

Michael Tisserand is editor of Gambit Weekly, a New Orleans alternative paper that temporarily suspended publication after the hurricane. He and his family are currently living in Carencro, La. He can be reached at michaeltisserand@yahoo.com

 

NICOLE WEST AND MELINDA MCCORMICK

Cat lovers Nicole West and Melinda McCormick pose with clients Oliver and Scooter in front of SARA's Treasures, the store they manage at 871 River Road. SARA stands for Shelter Animal Resource Alliance, and the store is a combination thrift shop and cat-adoption agency, founded in 2001 by Diane Robertson, who previously worked at the East Maui Animal Refuge. "I saw the need for a group to help rescue and find homes for adoptable animals," she says. Since 2001, a total of 458 cats and 913 dogs have been rescued from animal control shelters. (Dogs are driven to Portland for adoption.) McCormick began as a SARA volunteer in 2002, then stepped in a year later when the manager abruptly left. "I said I'd help for three months," she says. "I'm still here! It's very fulfilling." West, who moved from Virginia with her husband and three cats in 2003, also began as a volunteer before hiring on as cat-rescue coordinator in July 2004. "We've rescued 340 cats since then," she notes. "But cats are still being euthanized every day, all because people don't spay and neuter." SARA's always needs donations and volunteers. Drop in to get your kitty fix. –BY PAUL NEEVEL