Cecil sat on the bench outside Walker’s Bar sucking down the last of his cigarette. After it was gone, he let out a heavy sigh, and the whole corner sighed with him.
It’s been a rough stretch for Walker’s. Its unofficial bandleader Chris Carroll passed last week after an extended illness. And then a couple days later, the unthinkable happened: We lost Kevin Coon.
I still can’t believe it.
I loved Kevin Coon. Right off the bat. More than anybody he eased my acclimation from New Orleans, made me think life in Greensboro might be doable after all. This was before I knew anybody in this city, and nobody knew me; I was waiting tables for a living. As my career started to come together, he was a useful sounding board and critic — somewhere along his short and twisted road he had studied English literature — and without question my favorite bartender in the state of North Carolina.
But forget what he did for me. I loved him for who he was, and here my words become inadequate to describe this man. He was just so… good. All heart and muscle and bristly red hair, his gravelly baritone and gentle patois one of the most soothing conversational instruments I’ve ever listened to.
I could never write anything that would do him justice. But I’m writing something anyway, because this needs to go on the record. Something must be written down about the passing of this great man and the way he made us feel.
He was a man with no enemies, generous with his time and his spirit, as genuine as a Kennedy half-dollar. Down on the Corner, he was the best of all of us.
And now, after the tears, perhaps we can be grateful that for a brief moment we shared the same time and space with someone so noble.
Inside Walker’s Bar, faces hang heavy along the rail, and when I meet the bartender’s eyes for a long second she almost breaks down. We both almost break down.
Kevin would not have wanted us to be so sad. But there’s nothing he can do about it now.