Are You Winning?
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
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
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
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
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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