When I came to New Orleans in October, on my first post-Katrina trip, there were no places to get parts for car repair (unless you yanked them off flood-vehicles...before the cops started busting folks for "looting" the totalled machines, that is). Given the shape of things now, it seems a little unreal that businesses had ground to a total halt, and stayed like that for weeks, if not months. The need for materials was acute, and you could literally count on one hand the number of gas stations in Orleans Parish. Forget about trying to find an alternator belt or brake shoes.
But when I returned here in December, after a break, I knew there had to be at least one auto parts store open. Surely, I thought, some shop somewhere was back on its feet where the flooding had been minimal. Desperate for brake pads, hoses, and brake fluid for a work-horse Ford Econoline van, I combed the streets one morning around the 7th and 8th Wards, searching in vain for auto parts.
Then, as I passed St. Bernard Ave. at Rampart, I saw a sign out of the corner of my eye...there was a red car on the sign, and the word "auto." My heart skipped a beat, as I flew around the next intersection and back-tracked to St. Bernard, where I found Roy's Auto Parts. When I saw the "open" sign in the door, I knew that the patron saint of forlorn mechanics was smiling upon me.
Read the rest over at BloggingNewOrleans here, it's worth it.