Johnny's has become a community centera place to get free soap, tampons and waterin addition to selling 15 cases of beer in two hours on most afternoons. Marcie Ramsey, the bar's manager, said she had a portable TV but wasn't about to sacrifice one of the five outlets offered by her donated generator to listen to the President. "He's coming all this way, but he still won't come down here," she said, standing beneath a "Bacardi Gras" sign. "He was here a few days ago, too, but we never saw him."
The site of Bush's speech was notably antiseptic and isolated, given the mayhem all along the Gulf coast. Fallen trees had been cut down, and scores of bags of leaves and branches were piled outside the 154-year-old, cast-iron fence that surrounds the square. The government brought in a truck-mounted generator, and Hollywood-style lighting. In the afternoon, fresh liners were put in trash cans. By dusk, soldiers from the 82nd Airborne had been deployed to keep regular citizens several blocks back.
Or they would have, if there were any. Military checkpoints bar people from the city unless they are rescue workers or others with credentials. The Chartres House Cafe has signs saying "We're Open" and "We Say KatrinaShmeena." It's boarded up, with handwritten signs saying the utilities are off.
The city used to be filled with the poor. Now, only those with connections can get in. Vickie Johnston, a 37-year-old hairdresser, sneaked through with the help of a relative who works for a power company. She found that besides the few clothes she had taken with her when she evacuated, she had lost everything except her Jetta and the eight compact discs on the visor. She began to cry as she said that she had voted Bush twice, but felt that all levels of government had failed her. "They knew New Orleans was a fishbowl," she said. "They knew it. And now it's a toilet bowl."
But signs tacked to the plywood on the front of a business called Sunshine USA said, "Thank You Mr. Bush" and "Thank You America." And signs of life were returning: On Bourbon Street, Big Daddy's Tabletop Dancing was using a generator to keep a pair of fishnet stockings and pink heels swinging out of one of its windows. Behind Bush was a statue of Major General Andrew Jackson, who defeated the British at New Orleans in the War of 1812 and later the seventh president, on a raring steed. The base of the statue says, in all capital letters, "The Union Must And Shall Be Preserved."