I’m gonna miss Jeff Laughlin, the inaugural sports columnist for Triad City Beat, in much the same way I miss myself when I was him: single, aging, full of unfulfilled promise and ready to make things happen.
He’s moving to New York, which is the exact opposite of what I did when I felt it was time to get in the game. It’s a poignant moment, and one that does not last.
You don’t make many new friends as you get older; that’s just the way it goes. And I stopped running around shortly before I met him, when he became my intern years ago.
But Laughlin is my friend, and I wanted to send him off. I wanted his exit to be different from the unceremonious dozens I’ve endured in the Triad over the years, that steady bleed of good people who head out for better things. I’d never be able to convince him to stay. But at the least, I could show up to see his band.
I brought my son to the house show. He’s every inch a teenage kid, though under the right lighting and circumstances I think he might be able to hustle up some action among grown folks. But that’s not why I brought him.
Laughlin’s band eased into an acoustic set accented by the sweet tones of a Rhodes keyboard and his own voice, a high tenor that worked its way through the friendly crowd like a waitress passing out shots of whiskey.
Jeff the funnyman, Jeff the jaded, Jeff the reluctant poet gave himself over to these ballads and fables, inhabited them like a spirit. And in those moments where the man became the song and the song became him, he gave us all a glimpse into his nature, his true self.
I wanted my son to see that. I wanted him to see that people still gather in rooms with their friends and make music to the night, and maybe there’ll be a fire to stand by, and perhaps you’ll get the chance to see someone you know in an entirely new light.
There are people who stay, and there are people who go, and there are many of us for whom such things matter. For us, the chapters of this city are written in nights like this.
Jeff was beautiful, as content as ever I’ve seen him, even as the time passed through his grasp like smoke.
I wanted my kid to see that, too — that there are moments in our lives so sweet as to last forever. And that it’s okay to move on.