Friday, January 19, 2018

Dean Allen

Yesterday morning I received an email from a friend who told me that another friend -- Dean Allen -- has gone to spirit. In writing this, the Dean I knew would have scoffed at the idea of having "gone" anywhere, let alone "to spirit," but that was part of his charm: not just the verbal and written forms his disagreements took, but the facial dance in advance of them.

Dean designed a couple of my earliest books: Kingsway (1995) and American Whiskey Bar (1997). As a designer, he made these books more than they were after I had signed off on them, and made a point of telling me so -- lovingly! Although both books were re-designed for later editions, Dean's original designs (especially Kingsway) remain my favourites.

There are already some nice remembrances of Dean online, including this one by Om Malik (the picture above is from Om's site and was taken by Matt Mullenweg). Om knew Dean after I knew Dean, who I met in Vancouver in 1986, and who I said goodbye to in the months before 9/11 when he moved to France "For good!" as he replied happily after I asked him, "For how long?"

I have more to say about my friendship with Dean, and will likely get to that over what remains of my own life. In the meantime, I would like to share a favourite (and friendlier!) piece that Dean wrote and posted on his Textism site on January 10th, 2001:


First, you need some water. Fuse two hydrogen with one oxygen and repeat until you have enough. While the water is heating, raise some cattle. Pay a man with grim eyes to do the slaughtering, preferably while you are away. Roast the bones, then add to the water. Go away again. Come back once in awhile to skim. When the bones begin to float, lash together into booms and tow up the coast. Reduce. Keep reducing. When you think you have reduced enough, reduce some more. Raise some barley. When the broth coats the back of a spoon and light cannot escape it, you are nearly there. Pause to mop your brow as you harvest the barley. Search in vain for a cloud in the sky. Soak the barley overnight (you will need more water here), then add to the broth. When, out of the blue, you remember the first person you truly loved, the soup is ready. Serve.


  1. Dean and I lived above a grocery store on Robson in the late 80's. One summer night there was live music coming in the front window. The Hard Rock Miners were set up with a washtub bass, banjo and snare drum on the street below. Dean grabbed an acoustic guitar, dashed down the stairs and joined them for the rest of the set.
    -Stephen Vanslyke

    1. Steve, it's nice to see your recollection of the Robstonstrasse apartment. Where are you nowadays? I moved to Boston ten years ago, and I'm at Best regards, Craig

  2. Steve!

    Long time no hear from!

    Yes, I remember the apartment. Doug Turner and Dean shared it and I remember the parties. But do you remember the refrigerator? Doug, who looked a lot like Bono Vox in those days, taped a photocopy of Bono's face next a photocopy of his own. Dean responded with a photocopy of his face -- next to Charlie Sheen's!

  3. I remember that apartment too; singing along to Lyle Lovett's 'Here I Am' at full volume.
    If it's not too late
    Make it a cheeseburger"