High Tide

– by Albert Berkshire

When I was a kid, we had three cabins.  Or cottages if you’ve ever visited or lived in Ontario, Canada.  But none of the three were a cottage, at least not to us.  We were Newfoundlanders living on the Island of Newfoundland.  We had “cabins”.  Cottage usually had “cheese” attached to it in our house.  That was the only cottage we knew.  And frankly, when you get a visual of cottage cheese, as I’m sure you now have, the question must surely enter your mind as why on earth a person would call a cabin a cottage.

One of our cabins was about 30 minutes from where we lived.  It was close to a lake and  every day we’d walk along the train tracks to the park.  It was a summer paradise for my parents, but we always thought, “What the heck? We could walk home from here!”  Another cabin was about two hours drive and then a forty minute walk through the woods to get down to ocean.  We were nestled in a little inlet with five other cabins. It was rustic.  Wood stove and no running water rustic.  And it was fun.  The third, where we spent a lot of time from the time I was about nine until I was fifteen, was about a six hour drive.  Sometimes it felt like a house, but it too was near the ocean and there was lots for us kids – family and neighbourhood – to do.  A LOT to do.

The cabin that was close to our home was never really of much interest to me.  No ocean meant no adventures.  A lake is a lake is a lake.  Boring.  It’s like The Umbrella Shop.  It was convenient Monday morning when I was in flip flops, knickers, and a T-shirt in a rainstorm in downtown Vancouver, but I quickly found myself asking, “So, what else do you have here?”

But the other two cabins were gold.  They had the ocean, and with an ocean comes low tide, and with low tide comes treasure!

We would troll the beaches for mussels, and rocks, and shells, and drift wood.  We’d search for net buoys that had drifted ashore, broken from their moorings by a strong wind or powerful undercurrent.  We would seek out the Holy Grail of every beachcomber.  A bottle.  And not just any bottle would do, first it had to be old, and glass, and then it had to have a note in it.  It had to have a plea for someone to find it and be the soon-to-be-famous-savior of the person stranded on a deserted island, a la Gilligan’s Island.  We identified with Gilligan and the Skipper, too.

In our search we would slip and slide on kelp.  We’d jump from one barnacle-covered boulder to another.  The crunch-crunch of sea life meeting its untimely demise at the feet of unknowing kids. “Tread Lightly” didn’t exist back then.  Neither did TV and video games at the cabin…so we made our own entertainment.  THIS was entertainment.

Everywhere we went was interesting.  We’d create games, skip stones, sling slimy seaweed at each other, write our names in the black, wet sand with a stick, make up songs about the things we’d find on the beach, and deep in the background of the “we” activities, I was busy writing about it.  It was in my head, but I was creating a narrative about all the wonders of the newly exposed ocean floor.  THIS was a playground worthy of a storyline.

I would speculate as to whether or not the barnacles knew they were on bad rocks.  Did they really want to be exposed to the fresh air where birds could peck at them and kids could make firecracker sounds at their expense?  The expense, of course, being their mere existence.  I would create entire stories about the bottles we’d find and what must have happened to the note that was, at one time, in the bottle.  Surely there had been a note from someone who was stranded. Why else would a bottle have been thrown into the ocean and subsequently washed up on our beach.

Sidebar: Incidentally, “subsequently” didn’t exist in my vocabulary back then. And come to think of it, neither did “incidentally”. The bottle was just there of it’s own free will. We did have “free will” in our vocabulary back then, mostly because we had nuns and brothers as teachers. They reminded us of that regularly. Most often with the strap. Not that we thought about them, or that strap, when we were on the beach. We were, after all, on vacation.

And then there were our competitors.  Seagulls!  And not the kind of seagulls that live on the Prairies.  Not the ones that followed the scent of McDonald’s french fries inland and have spawned generations of egg-crackers who have no idea what the ocean looks or smells like.  Not the kind that think a lake is the be-all and end-all of bodies of water.  Those kinds of seagulls are bored to death and they don’t even know it.  I’m talking about pre-fast-food seagulls.  The kind that lived off of the ocean.  Seagulls with real character.  And simply I loved them.  To me, they had everything.  They were doing everything we were doing, only they could cover more ground (or air) in a minute than we could in an hour.  It was their flight that trumped us.  But only in the physical sense. In the spiritual and adventurous sense, I would fly with them.  I would pretend that I was up there looking around for flipped over sea urchins and star fish.  Star fish being as rare as notes in bottles for us.  Must have been a North Atlantic Ocean thing.  But we were ten, so we didn’t know what we were missing…they just weren’t there.

It was fascinating.  We had endless summers of fun.  We had everything we wanted.  We had everything we didn’t know we needed.  We had our imaginations catapulted into the stratosphere.  We were airborne with creativity.   And in the innocent tradition of curious kids, we milked it for all it was worth.  Had the beach been a cow, she would have covered her nipples and ran for her life when we showed up, because we were going to get every last drop out of that exposed canvas of imagination.

It was good back then.  There was no pressure on us.  It was real.

Low tide was full of inspiration.  It felt good.  And right now, in my creative world, the water has just rushed in and the tide is high.  Really high.

But you know what comes six hours after high tide.

Yeah…I’ll be back.  One way or another.


Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes, plays, and consults for clients on Canada’s West Coast. And while he appreciates the beauty and serenity of the the Pacific Ocean, he prefers the violent and unforgiving nature of the Atlantic Ocean. Like his muse, the Atlantic fuels his creativity. It’s a part of what helps make his company, GreatCreative.Com successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.

High Tide is as boring as a lake. Move along, move along! Nothing to see here.



When “No, Thanks” Translates Into “Yes, Please”

– by Albert Berkshire

I liked Nick.

I’d still like Nick just as much if he would return my call from 7 months ago with acknowledgement that he still owes me lunch.  Of course, you don’t get to be a multi-millionaire by spending your money buying other people lunch.  At first I thought he was offended by my eating habits.  I’m a vegetarian.  He eats a steak a day.  Probably nothing else.  If it grows in the ground, he has an aversion to eating it.  If it gave birth, you know, like your mother, I have an aversion to eating it.

We are diabolical opposites…save for one important point.  We both know that there are far smarter people in the world than us, and when we need them, we should call on them.

Nick once told me (several scotches in) that the reason he’s had such business success was because he surrounded himself with people who were far more talented than he.  I took it as a compliment that he trusted me and respected what I do.  But I’d still like to get my free lunch.

Some clients, like Nick, get it.  They get that when you hire someone to give you professional advice, guidance, direction (or any other corporate-friendly term that makes you feel giddy), and to do what it is that you do professionally, that hiring a person also includes actually listening to said person.

Seriously, apart from an absolute aversion to many acronyms (most notably ASAP), very little bugs me more professionally than a person who hires you to do “A”, then demands “B”, and ultimately tells you he/she really wanted “C”.  “A” having been the original request, and still the best option – offered by said hired professional hired to provide “A”.

But sometimes we suck it up and provide “C”, n’est pas?

OTHER times we say, “No, Thanks” and move on.  And then your “No, Thanks” gets ignored and you feel like you have a professional stalker.  Only not the kind of stalker who sends you really mean emails (oh, I’ve had them) or just constantly solicits your advice for free with no intention of ever doing business with you (had them, too), but the kind that assumes you LOVE to be abused and you were only joking when you politely say, “No, Thanks.”

Some of my colleagues and most trusted advisors try to tell me that ditching good clients in a downed economy is paramount to professional suicide.  Well, let’s establish a point before I address that.  I’m in demand.  In fact, most people who do what I do (sadly, there are many) are in demand during an economic downturn because we know what the hell we’re doing, we know how to execute projects affordably, and we’re darn fun and enjoyable business partners.

Now, to address that professional suicide thing: “Yeah. Thanks for your input. I was only paying you for your advice so I could ignore it. How could you possibly know more about what you do than me?”

Ridiculous, isn’t it.  That was the most asinine comment ever.  But that’s what I’m talking about.  Clients who pay you to do things that you tell them they shouldn’t do.  It’s like a child asking you what colour the grass is and when you say, “green”, they look at you and say, “Brown…got it.”  (Actually, that would be more accurate at my home since I also have an aversion to using chemically treated potable water to make my yard look pretty.)

I feel like it’s Purge The Aversion Day in the Great Creative.com studios.

So, onwards.  Turning down business is tough.  Working with someone who in no way gets what you can do is even tougher.  And if you’re open to me working towards a third suffix (I do love Trinities), saying goodbye to great money is the toughest.

But sometimes you just have to suck it up and say “adios dinero”. (I do not have an aversion to the beauty of the Spanish language).

The bottom line, which I’m sure you’ve been hoping to read, is this:  The best feeling in business – any business, thinks I – is when you let go of your financial and emotional connection to a project, client, customer or acronym and free yourself to do what it is that you do best.

In my case, my remaining clients (really, it was only one that I punted) afford me the freedom to do what I do best.  I create for them…and they appreciate my work.

My “No, Thanks” client showed up again recently.  Maybe I wasn’t clear enough, but being vague is a game we creatives like to play from time to time.  So I took it as a sign that “No, Thanks” is sometimes interpreted as “Yes, Please” and can also translate into, “Fuck it. I’ll take the money.”

That’s probably how Nick got to be so freakin’ rich.

Which reminds me. I am bloody hungry. Nick? Pick up the phone.

Albert, you're not hearing me hear you. When you say "No", I am experiencing "Yes!!". But later I'll prefer "Maybe".


Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes, plays, and consults for clients on Canada’s West Coast. There’s a lot of decidedly formal “blah blah blah” in his typical work day, most of which comes from his own mouth. To learn more about Albert, visit the website his consultant feels should be immediately updated at www.greatcreative.com.  For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, devoid of cynicism, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.