Frank, Speaking

By the time he got to Phoenix . . .

NT: And do you think President Bush and our various assistance agencies would have acted more quickly, more efficiently, if this were a disaster affecting mostly white people?

Frank: You mean your president? He's your president. He's not ours. And when I say ours, I don't mean skin color or race issues. I mean he isn't the president of the 100 percent Americans. When I say "ours," I don't mean he let down one race or one city. I mean everybody. He's your president. You can have him.

NT: If I were President Bush, what would you say to me?

New Orleans evacuee Veronica Lewis bundles up with a donated shawl at the Veterans' Memorial Coliseum evacuation center in Phoenix.
AP/Wide World Photos
New Orleans evacuee Veronica Lewis bundles up with a donated shawl at the Veterans' Memorial Coliseum evacuation center in Phoenix.

Frank: I'd say plenty. For the first thing, I'd say, "Mr. President, you should have been a little bit more concerned. I know you've got many things on your mind about the mistake you made in Iraq. I know you're all busy getting all those people over there killed, and so you can't take care of your people over here. I know you have to spend all that money in Iraq, killing people, and so there's not enough for the brothers over here who don't know where their next meal is coming from. And that's a damn shame."

And the next thing I'd say to him? "If the election was tomorrow, you wouldn't hear from me. No sir."

NT: Well, he can't run for office again, anyway, because --

Frank: I'm just predicating.

NT: I see. Now, what do you say to people who ask, "What were you doing, living in a city below sea level?"

Frank: Sixteen feet below the sea! Hey, I was born in New Orleans, I grew up in New Orleans, we got friends there, we got family, we know which way to turn right, which way to turn left, who to talk to, who not to talk to, the places to go, the people to see. It's home. That's all I have to say to that. It's home.

NT: So you won't be staying in the Valley, then.

Frank: I'm 52 years old. All I know about Phoenix is from the Coliseum to this Circle K. And I'm not saying nothing bad about Phoenix. I'm just saying, "Hey. In New Orleans, we're beer drinkers." We drink 24/7. New Orleans is open 24/7. If you want to wake up two, three o'clock in the morning and go to the corner store to get you a beer, no matter what day it is, you can do it! That's our culture.

NT: Well, it's a beautiful city.

Frank: Was. It was a beautiful city. Long as you don't bother or hurt nobody -- no robbing, no maiming or nothing like that -- you're fine. You're fine! Mind your business, that's the best thing to do in New Orleans. Get what you need before you go to bed, and you be fine. But I have to be honest: The crime rate is terrible. Terrible. And I'm talking before the flood. I'd say there was 260 murders so far this year. And I'm being conservative!

NT: What do you think you'll find once you return?

Frank: A lot of heartache. Misery, disgust. We're gonna have to rebuild. I don't know. Fact of it is, we've just been here five days. Sunday it'll be a week. And really, people at the Coliseum, a lot of us, it hasn't even hit home with us yet. You know what I mean? You think about what you left, you think about what you have now, you think about what you got to go back to. I don't think it's hit home with us yet that it's nothing, nothing to go back to.

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