Aunt Mannie

With Thanksgiving fast approaching I thought it would be fun to write about the people and things I am thankful for.

Aunt MannieThe picture sits on picture on my desk. It’s ragged and worn. Cut from a larger picture by someone over the years.

This picture is the first thing I see when I start a day’s work and the last before I stop work for the night.

It is one of the few pictures I have of myself as a teenager. I am wearing my usual winter attire in those days. Flannel shirt, a World War II era navy greatcoat I got at a thrift shop for the princely sum of $5.00 and boots. I always wore square-toe engineer boots back then.

The very small lady standing with me is my Aunt Mannie.

She wasn’t my aunt. More like a distant cousin – so distant we were hardly related.

When I was growing up I got a greeting card with a few dollars tucked into the envelope on every holiday. New Years, Saint Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Easter, my birthday, Halloween Thanksgiving and Christmas were all marked with a card from Aunt Mannie. Since I had never met her she was a mystery to me, and that made the cards wonderful because somebody out there loved me. I was so lonely with my failing hearing and lousy grades in school. Aunt Mannie was always there. In the mailbox.

When I was twelve my family moved from rural Chester County, Pennsylvania back to Philadelphia. My mom took me clear across the city to visit Aunt Mannie. We got to her house and I quickly realized that every card and every dollar she had sent me was more than she could not afford to share.

To be on the receiving end of that kind of generosity and love is inspiring and empowering and at the same time humbling.

After that I went to see her whenever I could. Sometimes I would cut school and play my guitar at every station along the Market-Frankford line until I got to her place. Whenever I visited she would cook me a big meal, pack me a meal for the ride home and stuff a few dollars into my hand before I left.

I loved those visits. Sitting in the kitchen with her talking about everything and nothing. On one visit she taught me how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich – something that became a weirdly useful skill later in my life.

She gave me so much, and to this day I don’t know why. I asked her a few times and she never gave me an answer. She reached up and gently placed her cool hand on the side of my face for a moment before walking back into the kitchen to prepare more food.

The last time I saw her I could tell something was wrong. As soon as I walked in she got all excited about her new copper frying pan. I looked in the kitchen and she was making grilled cheese sandwiches on a copper dustpan.

Before you ask, yes. I ate the sandwich. I couldn’t bring myself to upset her. Sometimes loving someone requires accepting the occasional dust bunny in your sandwich.

At her wake my father walked with me to her coffin. I loved him for that. As we stood there I asked him if he knew why she did so much for me. Dad shrugged and said, “She loved you. No other reason than that”.

I keep her picture on my desk. I think of her almost every day. Her example has influenced a lot of what I do as a teacher.

Thank you, Aunt Mannie. I love you.

Interesting Times: Episode Seven

This week, Pat and Patrick are both disconcerted with the behavior of the rich, famous and powerful.

About This Podcast:
Pat and Patrick Costello are a father and son team who have been making music together for decades. They have different and sometimes opposing viewpoints on topics in the news, but they treat each other with love and respect – and that is really what this podcast is about.

Adventures in Frailing

The interview with Jack Scrimshaw for his show on Ultimate Radio was a rare treat. I just have to wrap my brain around the fact that I am not the kid struggling to learn or the young hotshot struggling to prove himself. I’m in the early stages of being the old guy now.

I guess I’ll have to save up for some good cigars. A lot of the old guys who taught me were chewing on stogies.

Jack said that the interview will air around Christmastime. Give Jack’s show a listen in the meantime: Route 66 with Jack Scrimshaw.

After the interview I got a note that my name had come up in a podcast.

Davey Psychotronic was on Rock Radio Bitch talking about punk rock and banjos. My name came up somewhere along the way.

In the evening a local guitar player stopped by for some help getting started with frailing. I was worn out so Dear Old Dad helped her out. She got the basics right away.

Tomorrow I’ll get back to producing episodes of Sing the Banjo!

Goodnight, and God bless.


We will not be posting an episode of Sing the Banjo! tomorrow. I have a lot of work to do on things for The Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat and a few other projects.

I am also going to be interviewed by Jack Scrimshaw for his show on Ultimate Radio in the afternoon, and somebody is stopping by #6 Potomac Street after that to pick a little bit.

Sing the Banjo! will be back on Thursday.

Right now I’m tired and my ears still hurt from yesterday., I’m going to curl up with Pooka and a much of redbush tea to watch a terrible movie.

God bless,


If anybody gets creative and wants to film a workshop we will be more than happy to share it here. Send links, requests, rants and raves to