That Shirt I Love

by Albert Berkshire

No one ever asks you about your favourite shirt.

People do, however, love to ask about your favourite colour, or food, or car, or brand of bike components…or more recently my favourite book or musician.

Maybe it’s the debate of merits that prompts these questions. People love to debate things.

Years ago, despite what I thought was an impressive collection of Nazareth vinyl, had you asked me my favourite band, I might have said it was Kiss. I had what I was certain were all their albums (yes, also on vinyl), I dressed up as Ace Frehley for Halloween when I was in sixth grade, and I certainly didn’t miss the opportunity to serenade a girl in my elementary school class (from a safe distance, of course) with the words to Beth. Though her name wasn’t Beth. A boy’s gotta try. Even the dorky ones. And to be frank, I may have been a kid, but I was pretty certain Gene had stumbled onto something pretty impressive, and I, too, wanted to rock and roll all night (Kiss, 1975). Possibly with non-Beth Beth.

And then there was the in-between years of Top 40 pop music throughout the mid-eighties that may have been the influence in a few embarrassing record purchases. Except for Madness and The Talking Heads. Madness (Our House, 1982) I can still appreciate. David Byrne of The Talking Heads (And She Was, 1985) was brilliant. (‘Though, there were too many feet in the video. Other people’s feet whig me out.)

I bought a Tiffany album? A WHOLE album? Shameful.
I bought a Tiffany album? A WHOLE album? Shameful.

Today, since technically by reading on you validate my need to share, I’d have to go with Led Zeppelin as my favourite band. Back in high school, when we were so much more learned and sophisticated than those elementary days, my friend Joe introduced me to The Immigrant Song. I was forever changed. Music, it seemed had more than instruments and choruses. It had feeling. It had emotion. It had lyrics that reached out and grabbed your mind in as tight a clench as with which it held on to your heart. It made us think. And we talked about it. What did it all mean? Most importantly to a couple of high school kids looking for their place in the world, the other kids weren’t hearing this stuff on the local AM radio. We had something different. And we were, in our minds, beyond cool.

Bonham, Jones, Page, and Plant made me listen. They made me rethink what words could do. And to this day, through the many incarnations of U2, the storytelling of the Eagles, the showmanship of Pink Floyd, the depression of Morrissey, the absolute cool of The Verve, the anger of the Pogues, the Ramones, The Violent Femmes, Amanda Palmer, Transvision Vamp, Nirvana, A Perfect Circle (I slept in a ditch that night), and what was described as possibly the first ever on-stage smile of Billy Corgan (also a ditch night), I am most influenced by Led Zeppelin.

Sidebar: I have been on the receiving end of the stink eye on a couple of occasions for interrupting a conversation to turn up Going to California when it started playing on the car radio. And I may have attempted a butt-grope at a high school dance during the standard last-dance song, Stairway to Heaven. But it’s as far as I got. Those Brothers and Nuns didn’t miss much. 

Music, admittedly, I will gladly debate with anyone, any time.

Colours. I have a colleague who will debate colours. This possibly happens more in our day to day world of advertising and marketing consultations, but there are specifically studied, established and accepted theories on the impact and influence of colour. The soothing light blue, the urgent red, the hungry yellow (which is why so many fast food restaurants use yellow and red), the calming green. Seriously, we can all mellow out and take a nap at Starbucks.

We can debate these things, but in the end, you either like a colour, or you do not. And as I was asked a couple of weekends ago by a friend as we were getting ready to go out, “Albert? Is green your favourite colour?” I replied without delay, looking at my shirt, “I guess it is. I seem to have it on.”

I’ll get to the heart of the matter (Henley, 1989) in a moment, but first, the others. Sushi. Porsche. SRAM. In case you wondered.

And the book? That’s the tough one. I’ve raved for years about John Birmingham’s He Died With A Falafel In His Hand. A roaring memoir about his time in share housing in Australia. Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos left me somewhat dazed and confused (‘Zep remake, 1969). Douglas Copeland’s Generation X, The Bubblegum Thief, and All Families Are Psychotic each kept me feeling like I was going to be forever young (Dylan, 1973). Joseph Monniger’s Eternal On The Water gave me a new appreciation for ravens and crows, and being a lover of nature and the First People’s spiritual world, it still resonates with me. But I’d have to argue that Tom Robbin’s Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates may be my favourite book of all time. The insanity of the characters, the rolling storytelling, and the depravity of the idea and ideals truly did take me over the hills and far away (‘Zep, 1973).

A couple of days ago, walking through a parking lot in search of a Thai restaurant (second most favourite food), my wife’s mother said, “Albert…Rosie and Marie said to tell you they enjoyed your book and that you are a good writer.”

“That doesn’t mean they liked it.” I said.

“No.” she relied. “I guess it doesn’t.”

“It’s okay.” I said. “It’s all very subjective. It either resonates with you, or it does not.”

“Well…” she continued. “We did have very different ideas about the ending and they debated it for quite some time. And they want me to ask you if he was or wasn’t…”

“Paulette,” I interrupted. “Your daughter still hasn’t read it. So we should stop there for now.”

I went on to explain that other than the beginning chapter and the ending, I hadn’t read it since the editor did her thing. It’s my preference to not know how she changes my story. (When I hand it over to the publisher, I’m happy with the story I wrote. If they feel they need to change something, then they change it. I know what I wrote and that was the story I wanted to tell.) My point was that I’m certainly not going to explain the characters’ motivations. That, I leave up to the reader – to debate, or not to debate.

But what she said was possibly the nicest feedback I’ve had on We Made A Pact.

It spurred a debate. And that’s the greatest compliment I think I could ever receive for my work.

By the way, that shirt I love? I got it in June of 2011. I was in Seaside, Oregon, when I walked into Moment Surf Shop. I wasn’t looking for a shirt. I don’t like to sport a lot of logos. But this one just had the right feel – at the moment. Serendipity, I guess.

The shirt certainly has seen better days, but it’s been a constant. It’s been the slip-on shirt after more than one muddy mountain bike ride, and has faithfully hung out with me by the pool…sometimes on a sunny day, it’s just been wrapped around my head. It’s just one of those things you come to appreciate. Even if it is just a shirt.

Pretty certain we can’t debate the merits of a shirt. That, I guess, is a safe zone for me.

But I’ll always debate the impact music can have on one’s life. I listened to a lot of music when I was writing We Made A Pact, and from that extensive playlist, I narrowed it down to 24 songs that I felt spoke the emotion of the story. Maybe one day I’ll share that playlist.

We can debate it, if you wish.

Every moment in this shirt is comfortable.
Every moment in this shirt is comfortable.

 

Albert Berkshire is a storyteller. His first novel of fiction, We Made A Pact, is published by Friesen Press. It is available in hardcover, paperback, and in various e-book formats. Just follow the links if you’d like to check it out. I hope you will. Public reviews are always welcome. Swapping stories of the first record purchase is welcome, too. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, Albert is found on Twitter @albertberkshire, and semi-socially at www.facebook.com/AlbertThomasBerkshire

Business Is Always Business. Personal Is Always Personal. Please Make A Mental Note.

This might get harsh.

I’ve come to accept there are three things I will never discuss, debate or pontificate upon in public, and in business.

Religion. Politics. Abortion.

Religion. It’s one of those “no proof no winner” topics. Those who love religion and feel it is the source of all the good in the world will never be swayed from their beliefs, religion being rooted in beliefs. And those who don’t love religion and see it as a source for all the troubles in the world, will never be swayed from their beliefs, their value system being rooted in beliefs. It is, essentially, a Mexican stand off. So, in terms of the business world, we should all just take a nap.

Politics. Red or Blue. That’s the Western way. (Okay, in Canada we had an Orange Wave that eclisped the Red, but that was unexpected. RIP, Jack) One wins the argument for four to eight years in America, a term or two in a Parliamentary Democracy, and till someone lops your head off in a dictatorship…then someone else takes over and spends their time blaming their predecessor for all the woes in the world. In the end, we digress, digress a little more, and then forget why we’ve digressed, so we go back to blaming someone else. The topic is a general lose-lose in business, so we should all just take a nap.

Abortion. This is an easy one. I pee standing up, by design, and while I applaud those members of the feminine gender who have acquired the skill of bellying up to the aluminum concert trough to relieve oneself (the female self), it doesn’t change the fact that this is not a topic for the genetically engineered up-right relievers. It is a topic that neither I, nor anyone with a grain of sense, would bring up in business. Standers or squatters. No need for a nap. My eyes are WIDE open on this. Noooo talkies.

In an effort to take this in a direction devoid of hate mail, let me weed out the topics that are not up for “Albert Opinion” today. Religion and the other one no one wants to debate.

So I guess that leaves us with Politics. Or me, at least.

In a recent municipal election campaign, I was added to a mailing list of “supporters” for a local mayoral candidate.

I should stop here for a moment: If you added me, it was okay with me. If you didn’t, it wasn’t you. And if you couldn’t help but Google me after our email exchange on the weekend, yes, I’m writing about you. And reminding you of one house you’ll never list. Oh, the power of the internet. Old angry guys from the Old Boys Club never really see these coming.

So I was getting these friendly update emails from the election team for the previously mentioned, but not named, mayoral candidate, and I’m sure in a moment of need to correct an error in shared information, the “sender” sent out an update without suppressing the list. An innocent mistake, but none the less, everyone on the recipient or “supporters” list was exposed. Big deal, right? We’re all like-minded folks. Apparently not. There was a reply from one guy. A very stupid guy.

He went on a tirade asking why he was receiving the emails, and explaining why he wouldn’t support this candidate. Hey then proceeded to explain all the reasons not to support the candidate and why he was supporting another candidate.

This was all written to an entire list of supporters.

Following? Amused at the stupidity?

The person hit “reply to all”. He’s a businessman. And he just went on a rant to the candidate’s supporters as to why he didn’t support the candidate.

Here’s the simple math:

“Reply to All” + “Unlike-Minded Recipients” x “Politics” = REALLY Bad Business Decision.

Imagine telling a hundred, or several hundred, people that they are wrong; that they are making a mistake. Okay, that’s a political opinion. That’ll get a few people riled up. Now imagine telling the next 100 or 200 people who call your business – or walk in the door – that they are wrong about their opinions. They haven’t asked you for your opinion, mind you, you have just decided to launch an “Opinion Assault” on them for no reason other than to satisfy your uneducated ego.

Sounds pretty stupid, doesn’t it. But it happened. Probably not the best thing to do for his business. Especially when his business category (real estate) relies on referrals. And for the life of me, I can’t imagine what that guy was thinking.

Maybe that’s it. Like to many business people, he probably wasn’t thinking.

Politics. Religion. And the other one. It is never worth it in business.

Just shut up and sell my house.

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes, plays, and consults with clients on Canada’s West Coast. He writes about both personal and business experiences, regularly helps his clients make good decisions, and always suggests you not hit “reply to all” unless you’re replying to your family – and even then, it’s not always advisable. Clarity of thought and no “reply to all” button on his email program, has helped make his company, GreatCreative.Com, successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.