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A utopian sort of dream

Last night, I had a dream. It was sort of a continuation of a day dream in which I reshape and help cultivate the future of buggy town. In it I am not the city manager or the major or a contractor. I am just a citizen. But I am one that refuses to not just talk the talk but also to walk the walk. It is a Socratic dream and overly-idealistic, I think. But it is my dream. I was coming into downtown Barnesville by highway 18 east. I passed the high school and on its rooftop sat an array of solar panels that allowed the entire city of Barnesville to be “off the grid” – free of MEAG. Gas at the Shell station was $1.54 per gallon but off to the side was a recharging station for e-cars, hybrids, and other automotive advancements. As I crossed over the railroad tracks I was greeted by a beautiful sign that said “Welcome to Historic Barnesville” and in smaller print, “where history takes a step to the future.” I could see the small flood light at the base of the sign that was powered by a small solar panel. “Great for nighttime driving and visitors coming into town after sunset,” I thought. I turned left on Thomaston Street. Pedestrians were walking down the sidewalk pushing baby strollers, walking dogs, and holding hands. It seemed like a scene out of the Truman Show. But I could smell the freshness of the middle Georgia air and I could feel a bit of heat coming down on my arm as it hung out my car window. It was real. So real. As I got to the clump of buildings where the post office, county court house, and library are I read aloud a sign that asked me to park as downtown Barnesville was now a pedestrian friendly community. No cars were allowed. Starting at the bank(s) the lanes in the street had been graveled over and plants had been put in. The street had become a pedestrian mall and the bistro tables were teeming with people. At the end closest to me there sat four trash cans. Each labeled for a different recyclable product. I watched with a smile on my face as a mother helped her small son put a Coke can in the aluminum bin. He shot it in like a basketball and his mother reciprocated with a clap and a holler. “Score one for the good guys,” I thought. I had come into town for a bite to eat and I knew that as always a quick trip would turn into an evening adventure. I was up for it though. I don’t have much else to do on weekend nights. I excused myself and passed by the woman and her son who were still mock-celebrating his recycled 3-pointer. Making my way into the deli I stopped to hold the door for an officer who, wearing a smile from ear to ear, stopped to chat a minute with an older man standing just outside the door. The deli was a great little place. A far cry from the typical fried fare or barbeque meal offered for so long in buggy town, it served Boar’s Head by the slice and had a host of organic offerings and healthy alternatives. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed though to find out they were out of sprouts for my cold cut on stone ground wheat. Whatever the case, I took my sandwich and grabbed a glass bottled juice on the way out. I was headed to a friends house for a little late night hangout. She had recently added a handrail on her roof completing its transition to a useable “green roof.” Like so many other shopkeepers on Main Street she was now living above the store she worked in in one of the two lofts that had recently been renovated. I rang her door chime and heard her voice come through a small speaker. “Who is it?” “It’s me,” I quickly answered, as if “me” was my name and not some silly, smart, comment. The sun was getting low and the whole street had taken on a beautiful orange glow. The sounds of young families eating ice cream and a couple or two sharing a bottle of wine could easily be heard behind me. I headed up the stairs into a hallway adorned with refinished molding and sound blocking carpet made of recycled water bottles. No sooner had I gotten through the loft door than a few friends yelled for me to “come on up and check it out.” The spiral staircase wound through the back bedroom and onto the roof of grass, a bit of gravel, and a lot of personality. It was indeed a yard but on the roof rather than in the back. I looked beyond though to the next door neighbors roof who had just had his first set of solar panels installed. They gleemed in the hue of the setting sun and you could tell they were installed with pride. I couldn’t help but remember when downtown was little more than a restaurant or two and an antique store. To gaze on it now with multi-use buildings, studios, cafes, a deli, an ice cream shop, a little boutique, and some other small ventures, I felt this pride welling up inside. Main Street USA had been reborn right in Barnesville. We sat up on the roof looking down at the street and talking to other neighbors as they did much the same. And as the sun gave way to the light of the moon, the streetlights began to turn on one by one burning up the energy they had stored from the sun that very day.

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