Down in the Big Queasy

The treasury is strapped, business is stalled, crime is up. New Orleans' bon temps have rolled away.

Even by New Orleans' lusty standards for revelry, last week's finale to weeks of Mardi Gras merrymaking was an epic blowout. There were John Bobbitt mimics, a Tonya Harding on roller skates with a baseball bat, and vendors peddling condom keychains. The 10-hour parade was viewed by 1 million revelers who overflowed hotels and French Quarter restaurants. As grateful merchants totted up the $10 million infusion, swelled for the first time by a riverboat casino, tourist-commission spokeswoman Beverly Gianna pronounced it "a grand and glorious party."

But beyond earshot of the festivities were the sounds of a city falling apart. In...

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