I've known Tom Hnatow for 20 years-- ever since we both worked at Arena Stage in D.C. He was one of the I.T. guys there, and I was a Junior Under-Assistant Ticket Monkey, 2nd Class, serving the ravenous, dramatic appetites of the culturally needy elite. He was friendly, funny, and a frustrated, multi-instrumentalist, working musician who dreamed of ditching his day job and just PLAYING. I was musically active in my younger days, played in rock bands, and could relate. I sold him my cherished, old electric guitar, satisfied that it would be both appreciated and used well. We got on famously.

A highlight of any workday was running into him in the hallway somewhere and gabbing or joking on the fly, you know the feeling? That co-worker who makes the job just that much less dreary simply because he's THERE? He evinced none of the pervasive, phony artsy-fartsyness that beset many of our colleagues, and which I also eschewed. He's much younger than I am, but he's an old soul. Warm, bright, clever, amusing as hell. A mensch.

In the years since we left Arena and went on to other things-- we've had various jobs; I've retired, and Tom plays, produces, records, tours and is thriving as a musician-- we've kept in touch via letters, email and Facebook, but have seen each other in person only a couple of times. His home base is now in Lexington, Kentucky. As is my wont, I mess with him often on Facebook, posting silly stuff to his page, putting up doctored photos of him, and so on. Anyone I truly like gets teased and messed with. Ask around. It's part and parcel of enduring a friendship with me.

Tom's good pal and frequent bandmate, the gifted and dashing, internationally sought-after drummer, Robby Cosenza, came to my attention via Tom's posts. Possessed of a similarly skewed sense of humor, I found myself drawn to Robby, and soon introduced myself to him and began to very comfortably goof with him, too. I posted many strange, silly, music-related pics to his page, and made a good deal of good-natured fun of him. He took it like a champ. Tom and Robby have worked in many musical iterations together over the years. I've enjoyed their stories of road life and taken vicarious pleasure in their travels and achievements.

For example: A little while back, I learned they had met and caught the attention of Ringo Starr, performing for him at his birthday party. Ringo dug their sound so much he invited them to back him on a couple of tracks on his most recent album. So, my erstwhile pals have now recorded with a Beatle! How cool is that, eh?

Last month, I saw that the band they're currently working in, Horse Feathers, was coming to town, and I just had to go see them. I booked tickets for the show at Union Stage (a stone's throw from our old stomping grounds at Arena Stage, on the Southwest Waterfront in D.C.) and went with an old high school rock and roll buddy, an old friend I've known for 50 years.
Because I enjoy messing with these guys so much, I found a decent photo of them together, tweaked it and cropped it, and uploaded it to a website that prints T-shirts. I wore the finished result to the show, surprising Tom, astounding Robby (whom I *finally* got to meet, after all these years of online fuckery) and getting some hearty laughs from the rest of the band.

It was a fine, delightful evening of great music, easy camaraderie, warm fellowship and all-too-brief reunion. A splendid time was had by all.

The images: #1-- My original design.
Robby Cosenza, L; Tom Hnatow, R.

#2-- Robby Cosenza; me, wearing the surprise T-shirt;
and Tom Hnatow, at Union Stage, D.C., D-Day, 6/6/2018

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