The town, it is a changin’

~~ Originally printed in Carrboro (NC) Free Press, October 2008 ~~

Sometimes I miss Golden Skillet. I’m sure I am better off since they’re not around, but it was fun when my mom would drop the old family truckster off at Sparkle Car Wash on Ladies’ Day and we could all sit next door and eat crispy, delicious fried chicken, waiting for the car to be cleaned. No, that is not my stomach growling. You must be hearing things.

Domino’s is not an improvement, and the Kentucky-Fried across the street is no substitute.

And why did they have to change the name from Sparkle Car Wash to Carolina Car Wash, anyway? “Sparkle” had charm. It had pizzazz. A rose is a rose and all, but… Oh, speaking of names, don’t you think Amante was just a bit cuter when it was Pizza Chef?

What about Marathon? An institution, I say. How could they close? I sustained my state of denial long after they served their last Aegean Grilled Cheese.

Sigh.

I liked having the ArtsCenter in Carr Mill. On a shivery, blustery evening, I could go to a show and then walk down the mall to Aurora for some steaming mussel bisque and black bottom pie without even having to step outside. That was a good thing.

Really, gosh darn it, why’d they have to go and change the Harris Teeter parking lot? Just what we need in Carrboro: fewer parking spaces. They were easier to get in and out of, too, when they were on a diagonal.

And how fun was it to get dressed up for a fancy dinner at Orient Express in the old train car? The romance. The intrigue. I thought I was something special, stepping out in Old Downtown Carrboro.

But look at all Carrboro has now that we didn’t have then: Weaver Street Market. Open Eye Café. Acme Food & Beverage Co. Maple View Ice Cream. Provence. Good Mexican food. More art galleries. Bigger and better venues. And a little more cred with the neighbors.

Change can be hard. Change can be scary.

On Halloween, a simple mask can turn the familiar into the fearsome. We experience a thrill because, however unsettled we may feel, the mask will come off and we’ll once again be faced with the one we know.

Real change is different. Real change doesn’t get tossed aside once the candy corn quota has been met. Here in Carrboro, we’re facing the real prospect of big change – not a mask that can be easily taken off. And that’s why it’s so scary. But change is a reality. We can be thankful that Carrboro’s change is going to come as infill, not sprawl – an idea to which the rest of the country is just now turning its collective attention, as the suburban model loses its gleam and falters.

Yes, there should be vigorous debate. Everyone wants to get this right. And I mean everyone. This will be a huge investment – of money and ideas, of land and dreams – in the future of this town. But after the bricks are laid and the roofs are sealed, Carrboro will still be Carrboro. We must always remember that a town of any merit is built around the people: you and me. It’s built around the lives we lead and the place we create every day. Buildings are just, well, buildings.

Nostalgia has its place. But if the past is any measure, the urbanization of Carrboro will be a good thing.

Sometimes, though, I do miss the Golden Skillet.

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