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Nov. 9, 2009
New Orleans—Day 1
So, I’m here in New Orleans with 8 other Clif people—all of us here to work with In Good Company, a labor force comprised of employees from like-minded companies who volunteer their time to make positive change in the world. This time we around, we've partnered with a bunch of other great folks to build a community garden and a home in neighborhood that's making a comeback after Hurricane Katrina.

Having never been to the Big Easy before, I was pretty excited to get underway. In the Oakland airport, having spotted my Clif Bar T shirt, belt buckle and hat, a woman asked what I was up to. When I told her I was headed to New Orleans to do some rebuilding after Katrina, she responded in a fairly typical way. “Why are we bothering to rebuild a city that’s below sea level and right next to the water? Isn’t it all just going to happen again?” she asked. It’s a valid point. After all, I‘ve asked the same question several times since the storm devastated the city four years ago. It’s a simple and convenient point of view and one that's easy to maintain…until you get here.

Today we had the good fortune to tour the city with Pam, a native of New Orleans who works with numerous organizations who are helping to rebuild and restore communities all over the city. She took us through districts with names that became ingrained in the public conscience during the storm—Holy Cross, Bywater, the Lower Ninth Ward. The damage caused by the hurricane dominates the landscape and there are still entire neighborhoods that are now made up of concrete foundations and stairs leading up to non-existent doorways. As bad as the damage is, though, you can really see the city coming back. Houses are being rebuilt, gardens are being planted, and people are digging in to reestablish their communities. It’s pretty inspiring.

The neighborhoods in New Orleans are among the most interesting I have ever seen. The architecture is the craziest mix of buildings, constructed over hundreds of years by an incredible amalgam of cultures. There's a vibrant street culture here unlike any city I have ever been to. It’s warm here and people are outside doing all sorts of stuff and have been for years. A long-time city resident told me over dinner tonight that before Katrina, New Orleans had one of the highest percentages of native citizens of any city in the U.S.Families stay here for generations and you can feel the history and the soul of an old city wherever you go.

So, why do we want to save a city that could potentially get submerged again? Because it’s charming and beautiful and mysterious. And because there are people here with real roots that go back longer than anyone can remember. These people want to stay in their city, and we owe it to them as their countrymen and women to give them a hand to make it work. Tomorrow we get started…and I’m pretty dang stoked. And the Saints are 8-0. That’s pretty cool, too.
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Office Life, 2080

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We like getting our heart rates up, taking a big breath of fresh air, savoring delicious food. But we also love telling stories and here's where we type 'em up. (BTW, it works both ways; leave a comment—please and thank you.)

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