Between the Strings

At first all I wanted was music
and that seemed simple enough
put your fingers here to make a chord
your fingers there to make it ring
just try to keep your fingers between the strings.

It was all left hand right hand
with broken heart between
coordination between two dancing hands
with a teenage brain in between
and no way to keep anything from slipping between the strings .

Years went by and songs came and went
all I wanted was to sing the blues
(but really to be with my dad)
we had some wild old times
with nothing between us but the strings.

I teach music for a living now
trust me, show business is no place for any living thing
I suppose I’ll be forgotten someday – and that is as it should be
just a bit of Sagan’s Star Stuff between these strings.

What will remain, all that remains, is the love.
People may not remember our work or our names
but they will remember bad jokes told to keep spirits up
stories told to descendants as they fight the eternal fight
of keeping fingers between the strings.

Patrick Costello


Authors’ note: I tried to get this post up yesterday, but fell asleep while I was typing!

I tried to go off of my pain medication for a few days. I wanted to break out of the fog and feel. for a change. It was hard, but it was wonderful. The taste of good port. Sunshine on my face. The feel of Amy touching my hand.

Alas, all good things come at a price. I woke up screaming in pain on Easter Sunday.
We ran to the hospital at O dark thirty, got shot up with enough pain dilaudid to almost work and we were sent on our way.

The sun was coming up as we were heading home and Amy stopped by a creek where the Virginia Bluebells were blooming.

I do not own a good camera at the moment. As I predicted, he image sensor got trashed at Holi DC – but my first camera was still lying around – a Canon Powershot A580. As is custom for me, I made the most of what I the good Lord gave me.

I dove headlong into the sea of green and blue . Happy as an old hound dog.

Then we went to mass at the chapel at the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia. The good sisters were very kind. Making every every effort to make sure we were comfortable and able to take part in communion. The chapel is a small wonder of Arts & Crafts architecture.  Amy loves the garden, but I would love to to a workshop. I hate making phone calls for that kind of thing,so it you wan it it happen I will leave it up to you.

For Easter supper I made jumbo bacon cheeseburgers (Just a burger for me, I can’t do dairy anymore) with portobello mushrooms. 

Then we curled up on the couch with Qiona and Invicuts and watched some of Ben Hur and I took the pain meds the hospital prescribed for me. The fog settled in and I thought about the pain of the last few days and realized to feel the kiss of my Amy’s lips, to feel the Virginia bluebells along the creek – and that creeks cold water . . . I would do it again in a second.

Christ is risen.
Life is beautiful.

Since I don’t have a camera, and I can’t really play much banjo until my shoulder is stronger (especially with the new katana) I will be focusing on a little project with the working title of Crisfield Guitar. I have new tools to help me interface my BAHA implant with the mixing board, but it still not quite as objective as natural hearing. I need help.

Since my car is still stuck in Crisfield, I also will need a ride. I will play harmonica, jaw harp, ukulele and tell stories all the way.

Volunteers to help with sound engineering would be greatly appreciated. We will be using a Zoom R16 and a pair of MXL 900 mics. Volunteers will be fed with home cooking by Patrick and Miss Trudy.

Another project already in the works is a rather, um, unusual songbook. More on that later.

At  some point over the weekend Any kissed me and said, “Welcome back.”

Happy Easter, everybody!


Matthew 28
King James Version (KJV)
Audio version

28 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

11 Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.

12 And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,

13 Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.

14 And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.

15 So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Okay. I don’t often talk about religion, but Easter isn’t about chocolate eggs or magic rabbits.

The Easter story, for me, is about victory. Imagine, as the song goes, if God was one of us and made the choice to suffer and die just like us.

It is a concept that inspires faith. comfort, controversy, dialog, mockery and rage.

Me? I stopped taking my pain mediation days ago. Coming out of the fog and into the light – no, the life – has been horrifically painful and worth every second. Just feeling – really feeling Amy’s arm against mine tonight made me realize that I would suffer anything to truly experience my life.

After everything Christ suffered he walked out of the tomb, and knowing how wonderful this world is, left it to watch over us. Out of everything in the Easter story, that is the part that breaks my heart, We fail to realize what a blessing it is to be on God’s good earth.


Another doctor visit today in the hopes of figuring out the cause of my recent onset of diabetic neuropathy pain in my feet. The specialist isn’t sure what is going on, but he was able to prescribe some meds to help manage the pain. With any luck I may be able to get some sleep tonight.

When we got home I decoded to make a nice home cooked meal for Amy. I haven’t been able to eat much lately, but it still is creatively rewarding to cook for the people I love.

Having even a slight break in the pain was enough to inspire me to break out my camera and have a little fun with Invictus and Quinoa. I truly am surrounded by blessings.

Waiting For Bluebells

bluebells at stone bridge in Manassas VA 2012

Bluebells at the stone bridge in Manassas, VA 2012

The bluebells are starting to bud along the riverbanks here in Manassas. Amy and I can’t wait for the explosion of springtime color!
We have taken a lot of pictures over the years, but you have also created some wonderful music inspired by the Virginia bluebells. We would love to hear what you create this spring.

Bumblebee in the bluebells by Amy Costello 2011

Bumblebee in the bluebells by Amy Costello 2011


I just read an article commenting on the twentieth anniversary of John Candy’s death this month. He was only 43.

Tuesday, March 25, will be my 44th birthday.

Anybody who reads the comments on our YouTube videos knows that people occasionally get some kind weird of thrill from pointing out my resemblance to John Candy.

Realizing that he was only 43 really freaked me out.

Given everything that has happened over the last four years I find myself more than a little surprised that I made it to 44 years. Realizing how young John Candy was when he passed really gave me the shakes for a second. I took a moment to ask myself that godforsaken and dreaded question everybody asks when they hit middle age: how would people remember me if I didn’t make it to 44?

I sat in front of my computer for a few moments completely bewildered until I realized that the if, how and why I am remembered really isn’t important. It is this moment – right here and now – that matters. There is so much I can do right here and now.

I can focus on the joy of music and not worry about playing all the notes.

I can savor the time I spend with friends, family and students.

I can let go of whatever might be troubling me.

I can give and not count the cost.

I can work without thought of reward.

I can strive to love fearlessly.

Yes, I have been pretty sick for a long while, but I love my life. Everything is pretty wonderful. My marriage, the friendship I have with my father, the music I make and share, the people I have met, the friends who have become part of my family like Carlos and Danny . . . It is all completely amazing. I will admit that the pain and sickness I am occasionally faced with can bring me down for a bit, but in those moments I can – as my mother taught me – look at the world and find good in just about anything. The deepest moments of despair I have ever experienced have all been shattered by simple and everyday things. The touch of Amy’s hand or a bit of sunshine peeking through the clouds can stir my heart to celebrate the wonder that surrounds me in every moment.

If I live to see 44 or 144 I don’t think it matters. It isn’t the length of time that matters as much as the quality of time. You and I have spent a great deal of quality time together. Even if we never meet in person, we have been given the blessing of being able to share ideas over incredible distances. If you stop and think about it for a moment the immensity of it is enough to take your breath away.

On March 29th Amy and I will be celebrating our birthdays at Holi DC throwing handfuls of color into the air as we sing and dance. It will be a day filled with moments to savor and remember. I hope that you will join us.

If you can’t make it to DC then come to Banjo Fun Day in Bedford, PA on May 17. Stop by the Monthly Jam in Pocomoke, MD or contact your local music store and look into bringing us to your town for a workshop. Dear Old Dad and I would love and excuse for a road trip.

If we never meet in person I hope and pray that the time we spend together through books or videos ends up being remembered as quality time down the road.

God bless,

Not So Sweet Georgia Brown . . .

Emory writes:

Hope you’re feeling better today.
Here’s a fellow who carries his “instrument” with him wherever he goes… and he doesn’t even need a pocket to carry it in! ;-)

It’s called manualism. Dear Old Dad taught how to do it when I was a kid. I think there was an episode of Barney Miller where a guy kept on making these sounds until people attacked him . . . from experience I can tell you than performing manulalism long enough in the right setting can make people aggressive.

Anyway, manualism became one of my top three schoolboy gags to make nuns freak out. The other two being, “The Great Napkin Trick” (also thanks to Dear Old Dad) and “Summer Camp Toilet Paper” (as taught to me by my Uncle Tom).

Of the three, “The Great Napkin Trick” was responsible for the worst beating I ever got from the good sisters. When the mother superior asked what I did that was so terrible, Sister Mary Julia shouted at me, “Show her!” I pulled a napkin out of my pocket, did the trick and the next thing I knew the pair of them were beating the snot out of me.

Yes, it was worth it and, no, I won’t do, “The Great Napkin Trick” for you.