Monday, April 27, 2009

Mom, thank you for my birthday.

Like most good Irish Catholic sons, I think my mother is a saint -- most of the time. She certainly has earned her spot in heaven. And not the least of her many miracles (of which she has often reminded me) is the story of how I came to be.

After two miscarriages and seven live births, her doctor advised her to STOP birthing babies. He said her body had been through enough and was wearing down to the point where she couldn't handle another pregnancy. He strongly recommended a hysterectomy. She strongly recommended that he have one instead.

My mother heard another voice, which had other plans. That voice came from the vicinity of her heart, and it told her that she wasn't finished multiplying. At age 37 she was pregnant with her eighth child in 12 years. That was me.
And she was OK shrugging off the medical warnings, because, she says, she knew she had to bring me into the world.

A couple of weeks past her 38th birthday, while she and my dad were painting and papering the bathroom off their bedroom, she went into labor. Piece of cake for a woman with her track record. Boom, I came screaming into this world at 12:25 a.m. on April 27, 1965.

A few months later she was back in the hospital having that hysterectomy. There was no denying it now. Her body had gone above the call of duty. And she recounts how I would lay next to her in that hospital bed and coo and gurgle in her ear, as if I were telling her that everything was going to be fine. And she claims that's what got her through it.

Thank you, mom, for listening to your heart and not the doc.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Days 20 - 22: Home sweet...ZZZzzzzzz...

Are you familiar with the term "smelling the barn"? As in, "The horse sprung into a gallop in the last quarter mile, as he was smelling the barn."

Well, we were smelling our humble shack in the final stretch. So much so that we pushed it from Columbus, Ohio, right on home. Nearly 11 hours that day. We had planned to see Cousins Bob and Grace and Mila in St. Louis, but Lyda hit the wall. She said, "Dad, I don't think I can take staying at another house. I'm tired of packing and unpacking. Can we just go home?"

I told her that would mean an extra 4 hours on the road. She sucked it up and was a champ. Willa was, too. They both started fussing about 50 miles outside of KC (actually we all started fussing by then), and they were fast asleep by the time we pulled into the driveway.

22 days; 3,249.7 miles; 10 states; 14 shows; countless hotel breakfasts; a handful of delightful home-cooked meals; and a visit to one chocolate factory.

Wow, what a long fabulous trip. As I get older, I think I get wiser about the hows and wheres and whats of a road trip, but they don't get any easier on my body.

Thank you to all who put us up and cooked us meals and gave us directions and bought me margaritas -- you have been a part of our success and will always be part of our wonderful memories from the road.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Day 18 & 19: Feels like home

I'm not really sure this covers day 18 or 19 because I've lost track of how many days we've actually been on the road. All I know is that it's been many.

One of many upsides of performing in the same towns every year
is that they become familiar; the people start to become like long-distance cousins; and the communities start to feel like home. We sure feel that way about Blacksburg, the gang at Gainesville United Methodist Church, and the great congregation at Progress Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Harrisburg.

Pastor Kent Carter, his wife Jan, and their kids Seth and Sarah, have become dear friends. We made s'mores at their house last night after a fabulous home-cooked meal. And we saw many familiar faces at the show this afternoon. Many thanks to those who made the indoor picnic a hit -- good food and very cool "feet" cookies custom made and iced by Marge. Oh yeah, and the preschool kids decorated the walls with awesome painted paper "tulips" that had feet as the flowering buds.

Being on the road can feel like home; you just have to make it that way. And as long as we're together with the girls, we've got home everywhere we go.


Day: 15, 16, 17: Now, I'm a jazz ventriloquist

"Mr. Stinky Feet is coming to Gainesville April 17"

That was the headline in the Bull Run (VA) Observer last week. Pretty typical for most small town newspapers where we play. However, the content of the story had some firsts for me.

My old buddy Danny Gogal, who helped organize the show, was attributed (not quoted) as giving the following info:

"Cosgrove, Gogal said, started out as a ventriloquist and was encouraged by his family to expand his repertoire." Presumably because I was really bad at throwing my voice.

Danny says he was misunderstood by the reporter. He was speaking to her via cell phone from the corner of a noisy Boy Scout meeting and he told her that I had started out as a "JOURNALIST," but apparently she heard "VENTRILOQUIST."

When asked about the direct quote in the article that read, "His music is upbeat and is fun for adults, too, because he does various styles like Jazz.", Danny just shrugged and said that was the only style of music he could think of at the time.

We all got a good laugh out of it. The article is going on my "wall of fame."

Another great benefit of a long road trip is visiting good friends and family. We couldn't do it without the home-cooked meals, social breaks, and free beds. Thank you to all who make it happen.

We camped out at Kate Kopischke's house in D.C. for more than a week and she didn't even get sick of us. We must be great house guests. We had dinner last Wednesday with the Muraski clan and t
heir five boys. Lyda was in heaven with all of those cute guys (we've lost count of her new beaus). Then we stayed with Danny and Lisa Gogal and their six kids on Friday. Lyda said she felt like she was staying with the Brady Bunch!

A guy I hadn't seen since college showed up my Georgetown Hospital show -- he's a doc there. I had dinner with Bill Geimer and Bill Barloon -- old friends I don't see very often. And Amanda and Scott Carruthers helped us book some gigs and fed us and let me nap in their basement before Saturday's show. It's a great life!

Next stop, the capital of the Keystone State.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Day 13-14: Congressional Child Care

Yesterday we rocked at the House of Representatives Child Care Center. Many thanks to Paige for setting it up. The teachers were into it as much as the kids. I think we saw some of our country's future leaders there.

On a tour of the Smithsonian Castle I lost my prescription glasses (right about when this photo was taken) which were eventually turned over to a security guard by another friendly tourist. Retrieving them from the Capitol Police lost and found was a great lesson in governmental obtuseness and glacial speed.

I asked a guard
if they had been found and he asked me to describe the lost article. I did and he said, "I knew someone would come looking for them. I'll call downstairs and have someone come up."

After about ten minutes, a uniformed officer whom we'll call "Ms. Pokey McSlowerson" shuffled her way up to me and asked, "Are you the claimant?" Whatever, I'm the guy who lost my glasses.

"Can you describe them for me?" she asked suspiciously. Of course, and I did. "Come with me," she said.

Like she just couldn't shuffle those glasses up to me. Now, I had to shuffle with her down a long corridor in the "restricted" area, down a service elevator to the basement, to another uniformed guard behind a counter. She told the guy behind the counter that I was the "claimant" for the lost glasses. He then shuffled over to a bank of lockers and rummaged around for a couple of minutes until he produced something wrapped in a yellow piece of paper.

So, I got my glasses back, but not before I had to sign the six-copy form (that's a form in sextuplicate). The form documented the journey of the glasses from the good Samaritan (the "finder"), through the hands of three other Smithsonian officers, to me. Five people had to sign the form!! So, the Finder got the gold copy, I was gifted the yellow copy, white copy to the lost & found clerk, blue copy goes to supply officer, pink copy to GSA Representative, and green copy to Receiving Officer.

Finally, I was released back to my family.

Monday, April 13, 2009

National Library Week

Hey, it's National Library Week. Celebrate by paying your fines and giving a big hug to your favorite librarian.

And consider sending them my two new and very cool songs that I wrote for the occasion. You can download them from my website for FREE!!

Just click HERE and visit my store. Enter the code "read" at checkout and get a link emailed to you for the free downloads.

Lyda calls all female library employees "Library Ann." So, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek, 80s power-ballad tribute to all Library Anns.

Read on!!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Days 10, 11, &12: Global Positioning, Museums, and Easter

Ever since we received a GPS for Christmas two years ago, my orienteering skills have gotten soft. My father was a great lover of maps and passed on to me the respect for navigation. I've taken great pride in my ability to know where I am and how to get there from here. Now, I don't have to know where I am because I've got a gizmo to do my thinking. But look out for tunnels and cloudy days, because when it says "searching for satellites" you're out of luck.

Lyda has nicknamed the voice on our GPS "Gabby," because she talks so much. We've muted her for this trip. And we about threw Gabby out the window when instead of a bowling alley on a rainy day, she took us to a new subdivision in the DC suburbs that probably used to be a bowling alley. She's really only ac
curate about 30% of the time.


We waited in line for a half hour at the Smithsonian to see Dorothy's ruby slippers. Lyda's excitement quickly turned to disappointment as the main attraction was just a pair of shoes in a glass box. Same with Kermit the Frog -- he looks just like the stuffed Kermit we have at home.

Lyda was more interested in the dark little nooks at the natural history museum where they show out-of-focus videos about protozoa, or was it about rain cycles? I really couldn't tell, because they were
so out of focus. I'd say, "Lyda check out this dinosaur skeleton!" And she'd say, "Let's go look at something in one of those dark rooms."


Why is it that we turn ever holiday and any event that is remotely kid-oriented into a SUGAR FEST?! Cranking kids full of sugar is not cool. I've told Jeni that I'm finished being an accessory to the madness. I mean I'm all for a good desert and some chocolate now and then, but who needs 30-some eggs full of candy?? At least one of the eggs had a dollar bill in it, and I slid some baby carrots into one -- which Lyda proceeded to eat first. (I'm so proud.)

On our way home at the end of the day, Lyda moaned from the back seat. "I think I had too much treats today. I don't feel so well."

Here's an idea for next Easter -- battered and deep-fried Peeps!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Day 9: Georgetown Hospital

Spend a little time on the pediatric floor of any hospital, or in the pediatric intensive care unit and you'll get a refreshing jolt of what life is all about. It helps put things in perspective.

We had a delightful show in the auditorium at Georgetown University Hospital. Several of the pediatric patients were brought in, and kids from the hospital's preschool -- the Koalas -- were there.

A couple of these young patients had received intestine transplants (one of the specialties at GUH), the thought of which makes my own bowels churn. But despite the discomfort they may have been feeling and the fact that several of these kids have spent more time in hospitals in their short lives than at home, they smiled and giggled and sang along as if they weren't attached to IV poles.

After the show, I had the honor of visiting a young woman in her room because she couldn't make it down to the auditorium. She is 27-years-old and is physically and developmentally a young teenager. Her mom and dad had that deep look of love and slightly-weary-yet-fully-grateful smiles that parents of chronically ill children get. It's that look of, "I'd go to the ends of the earth for my child, but I've really about had it with these visits to the hospital." They were so appreciative to have a brief break of music and laughter.

These visits always bring me back to Willa's stay in ICU almost two years ago -- the origin of the song Let's Stick Together. Those nurses and docs who do this day after day are truly heroes. And the parents who never get a break are living saints.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Day 8: Move over!!

Congratulations! Virginia wins the award for most drivers camping out in the passing lane on the interstate. Move over, already!

We've put in a few miles on the road all over this country and every year we come here and find people putzing along in the left lane with no clue that they're backing up traffic. With some gentle reminders -- a tap on the horn or flashing of lights -- they just wave as we pass on the right.

Other than that and the convoy of semis on I-81, the trip up the Shenandoah Valley is amazing. This is some of the most beautiful stretch of interstate in the U.S. -- along with the stretch of I-40 between Albuquerque and Gallup in New Mexico.

We're in our nation's capitol today! Cherry blossoms here we come!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Day 6 & 7: Underpants country

Man, this is beautiful country. We are in Southwest Virginia, nestled in the Roanoke Valley, at the southern end of the Shenandoah Valley, in the heart of the Appalachians. (And folks, that's pronounced Apple-at-chens -- short "a" and hard "ch", like "throwin' an apple at cha." not Apple-ay-shens. If you talk like that, they'll know you're a Yankee.) You can catch the Blue Ridge Parkway right down the road from where we're staying, or you can hop on the Appalachian Trail.

And like a lot of places around the country, they've had some freaky Spring weather here. It was 75 degrees on Sunday. Today, it was cold and gusty with snow flurries. But that didn't freeze the spirits of the kids at Snowville Elementary. They were full of great energy, and Sadie did a screamin'-great job singing "Bop Bop Dinosaur."

Performing "Bop Bop" in the south is always a kick because this is "underpants" country. The word "underwear" is an oddity. So it can be a bit of a challenge getting through the song without kids screaming "...dancin' in their underpants." Which doesn't at all rhyme with "polar bear," but it is still universally a giggle-maker.

And a big thank you to the folks at Anchor of Hope Presbyterian Church who sponsored the show at Max Meadows Elementary yesterday. The kids there were so polite and great with Lyda and Willa.

The members of Fieldstone United Methodist Church welcomed us again this year. We feel like we're at home there. Thanks to Mandi Martinez and Pastor Bryson Smith. We'll see you next year!

We're still livin' the dream!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Day 5: Palm Sunday at Tech

We attended Palm Sunday Mass at the War Memorial Chapel on the campus of Virginia Tech, just a few hundred yards from another sobering memorial for the 32 students and faculty who were gunned down in their classrooms two years ago this month.

The emotional wounds from that massacre are still very fresh and raw in this town of 40,000, especially this time of year. And just as I did upon first seeing the Vietnam War Memorial in D.C. for the first time, I was overwhelmed by sadness and tears.

After reading the narrative of Christ's passion from Mark's gospel, which is customary on Palm Sunday, the priest started his fiery sermon by acknowledging the violence in Binghamton, New York, last week and how each of us has the capacity to be violent. He warned against lulling ourselves into believing that just because we are "good" or "law-abiding" or "church-going" we are somehow incapable of getting really nasty sometimes -- whether it's shouting at someone in traffic or feeling gleeful when someone else trips and falls. He likened himself and the rest of us to the folks in the readings. At the beginning, the people in Jerusalem are waving palms and shouting "Hosanna!!" to welcome Christ into town. But then a few days later they're shouting "Crucify him!" As soon as something or someone is perceived as a threat, we opt first for eliminating it rather than trying to understand it.

So now we are left with memorials for wars and massacres, not merely as a memory to those who fell or served, but as a stark reminder of our own darkness. Maybe some day we'll evolve beyond the need for memorials.

I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Thomas Merton:

"Instead of loving what you think is peace, love other people and love God above all. And instead of hating the people you think are warmakers, hate the appetites and disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed --but hate these things in yourself, not in another."

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Day 4: Blacksburg and new boy friends

Another day, another cool historic theater. This day it was the Lyric Theater in Blacksburg, Virginia, across the street from the campus of Virginia Tech. Since it opened here in 1930, the stage has been graced by some very cool acts.

Have I mentioned before how much we love Blacksburg? This is our fifth trip here in six years, and we always feel like we're at home.

The people here have been so cool to us, and John Borman, part of the theater's event staff, paid me one of the nicest co
mpliments I've had in a long time. He said, "We've had some children's acts through here that were good, but you were great!"

It sounds like they'll have us back next year!

And Lyda has informed us that she has picked up some new boyfriends here. The other day she was up to 21 "beaus", but now
she says she's lost track. Look out, daddy!!

Many thanks to Big Joe Trice and all those who m
ade these shows possible.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Day 3 -- part 2: Poor Customer Service

We travel a whole bunch. We stay in a lot of hotels. Occasionally we rent cars. And for years we have enthusiastically used Priceline to do it all. Until yesterday.

In this climate of bankruptcies, it's amazing to me that companies still don't understand that simple customer service can secure life-long, loyal patrons.

Inflexibility is unacceptable. But what I do accept is that people make mistakes, and I believe in giving opportunities to correct mistakes. As a business owner, I know this all to well. When I make a mistake, I am eager to correct it quickly to retain a customer. Seems simple, really -- and logical.

So, after nearly five years as an avid fan and loyal Priceline customer, I canceled my account. Five years of loyalty, and they have managed to lose my trust and my business in a matter of hours.

Hello, Hotwire!!

Day 3: Let it shine all over Pulaski

In downtown Pulaski, Virginia, there's an old theater that's being renovated to it's glory by a group of dedicated volunteers. It's still a work-in-progress and it's shaping up to be a gem.

Nearly 200 people filled the lower level and proceeded to rock until the dry-wall dust was flyin'. Many thanks to Diane Brillheart for going above and beyond on the stage decorations -- one of the coolest stage sets we've ever had. Even Lyda contributed by huffing
and puffing and blowing up her first balloon.

As a performer, it is such a rush to play in a cool old theater in a small town.
These old Vaudeville houses are loaded with stories and spirits from a great history of performing arts.

Rock on Pulaski!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Day 2: Almost Heaven

Every time we drive through West Virginia, I'm blown away by how beautiful it is. This state has gotten a bad wrap. The girls loved it and befriended some bears.

No wonder all the Germans at Oktoberfest in Munich we're belting out the song Country Roads every half hour. (I had never imagined it as a drinking song until then.) This place looks like Germany with its striking green m
ountains and little hamlets nestled in its valleys. And as the interstate follows the Kanawha River out of Charelston, you'd think you were driving along the Rhine.

The only thing we could do without is all the coal. It's a double-edged sword, because coal has brought a whole lot of money to this state. But you see barges laden with coal chugging up the Ohio River. You see mounds of coal ready to be loaded onto more barges. You see mountain tops decapitated to uncover its black gold. Then they pave it and build a Walmart on top of it and say, "See, everything's cool. This is progress." Sad. I hope this chapter in our energy history is coming to an end.

Enough of that...

We're in Blacksburg, VA, now -- home of Virginia Tech. We totally love this town. Feels great to be back. And the girls have been angels on this 920-mile trek from home. We celebrated by bowling in the hall of our hotel tonight. I hope our neighbors didn't mind!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Day 1: Road Trip!!

Like any good road trip -- no matter how long -- you start packing the night before. In our case this one will span 23 days and 10 states. Our schedule is lighter than last year's eastern swing -- we have only 14 shows. That means some days off to play.

We're finally getting the packing routine down. Unlike the first time Jeni and I hit the road with just one child and a van over-loaded with gear and a full cargo carrier on top, this time with two kids, I can actually see out the back window.

We pulled out of the drive at 10:23 a.m., nearly an hour behind "schedule" (as if it's possible to have a "schedule" when I'm outnumbered by estrogen and Libras), drove 400-some-odd miles, and now we're back in
Kentuckiana (see earlier post) within spitting distance of "Possibility City".

(Geography digression: Did you know there's a town in Indiana called Santa Claus? Pretty cool.)

People often ask Jeni and I how we 1.) travel as a couple for such a long stretch and stay married, and 2.) how we travel with two young kids for three weeks on the road. The short answer is: We are
livin' the dream and we love it (not to mention each other). The other answer is: Practice. This is what our girls know and expect, so it's no big deal.

We have to make it fun and practical and realistic and interesting all at once. Some tips:

Get a road trip theme song. Our theme song today, of course, was The Brady Bunch's Keep On (Cruisin' down the highway in a makeshift Model TA. Whoo!) And change it up, 'cause this is fun for about the first three spins, then it's auditory assault. The girls love their Bradys.

Engage with the kids. Don't just slap them in front of an endless loop of videos. Sing. Talk. Play games. Just like we did when we were kids. Read, for crying out loud! And we're not complete curmudgeons when it comes to video (we got one for Christmas last year and it's nice to have along.) We enthusiastically agree to one video per day. No more.

Pack some good food. And by "good", I mean "healthy." Personally, I think just because you're on a road trip is no excuse to jack kids full of sugary, salty, greasy snacks. Especially if you have them strapped to a seat for eight hours and expect them to be relaxed and happy and cooperative. It's down right abusive to fill them with junk and then pester them to "keep it down" or "sit still". I want to see you try to sit still after a bag full of Skittles. We're only minor sugar-Nazis. Snack time comes right after a good lunch and a nap.

Keep your same bedtime routine. It's not always easy, but 'nuff said.

More as it happens. Cheers!