Posts Tagged ‘Tommy Ardolino’

Five years on already

February 8, 2015

5th candleIt was a cloudy Friday afternoon in January 2010, about 12:30, at the place that was my de facto second home in Fresno, the Revue coffee shop (since sold and renamed Mia Cuppa) in the Tower District.

I met up for a lunch/coffee appointment with my former Fresno Bee colleague, Jennifer Ward. At that point, it had been eight months since I was discarded, in a mass layoff, by the McClatchy chain, from the job for which I had moved from Connecticut six years before, as an assistant features editor at the Bee. Jen was the paper’s interactive editor, brought in from the Dallas Morning News to implement and oversee the paper’s online operations.

But Jen had just been let go, too, and unlike this frustrated, depressed, middle-aged editor and writer who couldn’t even get a dog to sniff me despite a glowing resume, she had some ideas.

So she sat down with me this particular afternoon to introduce me to the world of social media.

She told me I needed to do three things — start a Facebook account, start a Twitter account and create a blog — so prospective employers would see that I was adept at social media.

I told her no Facebook — for one, I reasoned that the same people who told me “You need to get on Facebook!” were the same ones who told me “You need to get on MySpace!” two or three years before, and who’s to say that in a year they wouldn’t be telling me “You need to get on Zork.com!” or some other site? Also, while I was out as transgender to my family, my friends in Fresno and my closest friends back in Connecticut, I didn’t feel comfortable having a social-media page as Frannie 2.0 yet, and wouldn’t be for another year.

But I was more than amenable to Twitter and a blog. She walked me through both. She told me to go with WordPress, as it was an easy-to-manage content-management system. I came up with the name Franorama for my blog — same as my radio show back home at WPKN in Bridgeport — but someone had beaten me to it. So I settled on Franorama World, and she left me to play with the blog and learn to navigate my way around it.

But what to write?

I had the world in front of me, but what would I write that would make sense? And people would want to read?

Also, when I left my longtime job as the entertainment editor/music writer at the New Haven Register to move to bigger and better across the country, I was seriously burnt on writing. My job was two and a half full-time jobs compressed into 55-60 hours each week — planning, laying out and supervising a Weekend section, writing one or two feature stories, planning and lining up interview questions, writing a music column — and the new job in Fresno was strictly editing, no writing, 40 hours a week. And save for posting an occasional CD review on Amazon, and a handful of blog posts on MySpace and Fresnobeehive.com, I had done no writing for nearly six years. I had to dig a lot of ashes out of the furnace.

So I was seriously out of practice.

Technically, my first post was on Feb. 3, 2010 — an automated introductory post from WordPress on the day I finally activated the account. But I finally found some inspiration four days later, the first Sunday of February. One of my two football teams, the New Orleans Saints, was ending decades of frustration by playing in its first Super Bowl. I banged out a post before the game about the excitement level I felt going in … and afterward, a little more ragged (and buzzing) for the wear, I posted again about the glorious aftermath.

I figured I would go back to writing entertainment/review pieces — after all, I reviewed albums and the occasional movie for 20 years in my professional life — but I still didn’t feel I had a purpose.

Then came April — and I found my purpose, not to mention an outlet to keep me relatively sane as I went through both my transition and the looooooooong unemployment.

And here we are, five years later; I can’t believe that. And now, where the hell am I, really?

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That’s neat, that’s nice (Tommy Ardolino, 1955-2012)

January 7, 2012

The face of a cherub, the beat of a rock’n’roll giant.

Note: I corrected Tommy’s birth year/age from the original post. When I learned of his death last night, I hit Google looking for news. What I got were several news sites that had some future “today’s birthdays” stockpiled into next week, and every one of them said Tommy would be turning 55 on Thursday. However, Hartford Courant music writers present (Eric Danton) and past (Roger Catlin) listed Tommy’s would’ve-been age as 57 on their blogs, and now there’s a photo of him with “Tom Ardolino: 1955-2012” on the nrbq.com home page.

I have this weird psychic bond/sixth sense about death sometimes — not nearly the great disturbance in the Force that Obi-Wan felt when Alderaan was death-starred, but a sense, nonetheless. I just know it.

I first noticed it that March morning in 1975 when I woke up with a start at 8 a.m. for no apparent reason — two seconds before the phone rang to tell us my grandmother had died.

It also happened three times in the course of a week in February 2006 when my childhood friend Rick was dying of lung cancer. (Ran triathlons, never smoked,was an architect to the stars, had a great family. Life is not fair.) We had drifted apart quite a while back — last time I saw him was at our 20th high school reunion in 1999 — but he came in loud and strong three distinct times in the week leading into his death, the last time the day before.

Sometimes I just know without anyone telling me.

Well, I was hardly an acquaintance with Tommy Ardolino, NRBQ’s longtime drummer; we met a couple times after shows and I interviewed him once, as I did all the other band members, during my time at the New Haven Register. I knew he had been in poor health for a while, and the news came out that he went into the hospital the week before Christmas for what was to be a long stay.

It wasn’t so long.

I was just getting ready to jump in the shower late yesterday afternoon when a random thought hit me out of nowhere, and kind of in the form of a news flash: “NRBQ drummer Tommy Ardolino died today.” I just shrugged it off as an overactive imagination at work.

Last night, sitting at the coffee shop, a musician friend posted the news. He got it from one of the guys in the current NRBQ.

Sure enough, there was indeed a disturbance in my Force. Tommy, one of the best rock’n’roll drummers to ever sit at a kit, an eternal cherub-boy who never quite grew up, and who got to live a fan’s wildest dream for three decades, was gone. He would have been 57 on Thursday (Jan. 12).

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