I’m feeling the pull tonight, pretty strong. It’s got me pacing with cigarettes in the yard and kicking the tires of my car. That last cup of coffee didn’t help.
When I used to succumb to the gravity of Walker’s Bar — which was once my favorite drinking spot in Greensboro, day or night, though it was always better at night — it had to do with my baser instincts, the ones that hindered me most of my life. But tonight I’m thinking about the old crew at the bar, who surely have gathered this evening to commemorate the loss earlier today of Chris Carroll, as much a fixture at the corner of Walker and Elam as the Bestway Wall of Beer or the steps outside the Suds N Duds.
To say Chris was a bass player is to make an incomplete reduction of the man. But yeah, he was a bassist who could, and did, hold his own with anybody. And though there was much more to him than the low end he took such pleasure in holding down, to me he never looked more at ease, more himself, than when he was performing.
I can see him now: on the stage at Wild Mag’s, tucked into the corner by the ladies’ room at Walker’s, on the patio at the Brass Taps, working the room after a set at the old Blind Tiger. Keeping time, dropping it down, singing at the mic with that sweet, sweet voice.
Hot tamale, baby.
I recognized Chris as one of my own right up front. We weren’t close in the way of old friends, but we were fans of each other’s work, and we made great drinking buddies, speaking maniacally into the morning hours about the nuances of words and music.
And always he smiled, and listened, and invited me into his world.
Looking at it tonight, it seems the only real difference between the two of us — besides his golden voice and his deep well of talent now forever silenced — is that in the end, I left the party a little sooner than he did.
Still I’m feeling that tug from Walker’s Bar tonight — not to feed my demons, which have gotten mellower with age, but to sense my friend’s presence and be with the people who loved him, too.
But the show is over. I’m turning out the lights and going to bed. I think Chris would understand.