~~ Originally printed in Carrboro (NC) Free Press, October 2007~~
It is 6,342 steps across Carrboro.
Along the way, you will pass McDougle School and the Carrboro Branch Library, two streets called Oak, two grocery stores, and Fitch Lumber Company, where Marc, Mike, and Marshall are ready to ring up your purchase of six picture hangers, three switchplates, two duplicate keys, and a fire extinguisher.
Along the way, you will see eight cyclists, six runners, three city buses, and eleven people waiting at bus stops, including three women jostling babies and bags of groceries and wishing there was a bench to sit on.
You will see nine squirrels gathering acorns and a groundhog playing in a ditch.
You will pass two taco trucks, three Tex-Mex joints, and dos tiendas Mexicanas. Say hola to Eladio, Irma, Enrique, and Ismael.
You will walk by a wine bar, an ice cream parlor, two café cafés. Four public parking lots. Three fountains and a snazzy scooter shop.
There will be a mother who wants to be a doctor and a doctor who wants to be a father. An artist who wants to serve her country and a teacher who wishes he could retire. A girl who wants to go to the moon and a little boy who dreams of dragons. A woman who studies Farsi. A man who studies English. A rock star. A prophet. A roofer. A poet.
There will be tears in the eyes of someone who wants to go home. There will be determination in the eyes of someone who wants to stay here forever.
You will cross the railroad tracks twice, and you will wander into three art galleries. You will duck into a used book store to load your arms with seven paperbacks that have been on your must-read list since January. You will wave to an acquaintance on the other side of the street.
In all, you will see twenty-four pedestrians, including two people pushing a pram, one person trotting behind a jogging stroller, four people walking dogs, five people on cell phones, and three dogs walking a person. You will see six kids on bikes and one on a skateboard. You will see a woman on a Segway.
It is 6.342 steps across Carrboro, but there are many thousands more dreams, many thousands more stories. And those are the real, the human, parameters of this place.
Carrboro Free Press will take measure of the town, one step at a time. We will take measure of the people, one story at a time.
If this is your town, and these are your neighbors, then these are your stories. And this is your paper.