Dean at the Jazz Cafe' / London
    Volume 3, Issue 7 - August 8  '99

Yeah, I know. I’ve been remiss. I haven’t written in a while. You’re probably wondering: Hey, what the heck happened to Dean? Is he jet-skiing in the Bahamas? Snow-boarding in the Alps? Weed-pulling in Peekskill? Or has he gone and changed careers again? Gone back to school to earn a degree in forestry and then backpacked into the Adirondack mountain range to
live in a treetop observatory watching out for forest fires and pick- pocketing bears? (A big problem here in the northeast)

Nope. (Although, I’ve seriously considered all of the above.) Actually, I’ve just been enjoying the summer and working on a few projects: like updating the website (stay tuned for a major upgrade in a few weeks.); building railroad-tie steps in the backyard; sharing kid-driving duties with Alison; trying to locate
the top of my desk…

We had a great neighborhood softball game, the other week. A ragtag assemblage of players, family and friends, ages 7-70, whacked singles, doubles, triples and homeruns, scrambled around the bases and caught looping pop flies and sizzling grounders on the new Sprout Brook ball field. Everybody got on base and there were so many runs that we quickly lost track of
the score. Only a few minor injuries and no broken bones.

And, because we’re in the middle of one of the most severe droughts on record, we weren’t bothered by those pesky mosquitoes.

Of course, as it’s so dry, we have been experiencing a rash of forest fires. Plus, all sorts of forest creatures including raccoons, skunks, snakes and bears, have been venturing closer and closer to civilization to use our water fountains and play in our lawn sprinklers.

Alison caught a thirsty garter snake by the tail the other day, to show Sam, and Hannah now accuses her parents of being hillbillies. I guess the wrecked car in our driveway doesn’t help. Or the moonshine still in the backyard. If I could just figure out a way to foil those dang revenue agents.

While I’ve been building steps in the backyard, Alison’s been painting the inside of the house. It looks terrific except for my bathroom walls which are now painted the color of mold, which is O.K. in a way, as it disguises the actual mold, but it does look pretty hideous, so I keep my eyes closed whenever I walk in which might prove problematic were it not for my accurate aim perfected over the years and aided by sonar skills known to all
you guys out there.

Meanwhile, time flies, the end of summer in sight. I keep trying to do what I’m supposed to do. (In between trying to figure out exactly what it is I’m supposed to be doing.) Maybe you have this problem too. There’s just too much to do. And not enough time to get it all done. These responsible adults I see, who properly prioritize and fulfill all their required tasks and responsibilities, and then find time to relax and enjoy a cocktail, (responsible people don’t smoke pot, do they?)… how do they do it exactly? Do they use pocket organizers? Do they have hired help? Are they just kidding?

In 1992, I flew to Halifax with my friend and production chief, Jim Shanley, to install the very first Music Atrium at the Eureka! Children’s Museum. As we labored furiously to get Boobles, Honkblatts and Boing-D-Boings in working order, and ready in time for the Royal Opening, museum workers would constantly pass by and ask, smilingly, ‘are you winning?’

This struck me as strange at first, as it’s a very English expression, one I was unfamiliar with and I had to think about what they were actually asking.

The question intrigued me as it implied certain assumed truths. 

One, was the assumption that you could actually win on rare occasions, that the deck was not completely stacked against you. I found this attitude oddly reassuring as I fumbled with the difficult job of aligning mirrors and photo receptor cells in a musical Laser Harp.

Two, was the implication that this – success and failure - was an ongoing process. You might be winning one minute and losing the next, but the possibility remained that you might pull ahead at any moment. The ongoing nature of this viewpoint was also reassuring. It meant there was always hope, that losing – failure – could be seen as transient, therefore something it was possible to recover from.

This from a simple, well meaning query.

Meanwhile, our three carefully packed and crated 9 foot tall Honkblatt Horns – spray painted with gold automotive paint – arrived at the museum strapped to a flatbed truck, badly scratched. We’d built the instruments in Peekskill, NY and shipped them by air. The reinforced plywood crates had been
crushed in transit.

Tone Stones were laid, Jingle-Lingle-Lillies were planted, Booble bulbs were attached and Boing-D-Boing strings were tuned. Jimmy fixed the Honkblatt Horns with a baby food jar full of touch-up paint we had brought along for such an emergency and the exhibit was up and running in time for the bomb-sniffing security dogs to search the museum.

Of course winning can be a matter of interpretation. It can even change retroactively. In retrospect, we won. Even when we were losing, falling behind, being unlucky or lazy or just plain stupid – we were in the process of winning.

That’s just one way to look at it. Ask me on Monday, I’ll surely feel differently.

Anyway, no bombs went off (they didn’t in Brighton either). Charles the Bold declined my invitation to sit on the Honkblatt – I think he felt it would be too undignified – but he did strum the Laser Harp and seemed genuinely surprised at the shimmering sounds he triggered as his fingers passed through beams of
coherent light. Have a good rest of the summer, everybody. A good rest of the
millennium, for that matter. Heck, you might as well all have a good life too, while we’re at it.

Oh, and if anyone happens to be passing through London on Wednesday, September 1st, come join me for some songs at the Jazz Café’. This is my only scheduled UK appearance for 1999. Call 0171-916-6060 for ticket info. Tell your friends too. Speak to you soon.

All the best.


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