JAIMIE VERNON – If You Don’t Know Me By Now

vernon_19972We hereby interrupt our regularly scheduled blog about me to talk about…me.
In my new day gig working in a train yard and shipping cars from here to — over there somewhere — I occasionally encounter cars that aren’t off a current assembly line but private cars being shipped by citizens for fun, profit and the rare felony dodge.

1928_ModelAThis week I posted a few shots of the more interesting of these: a 1928 Model A, a 1968 Buick Skylark SG, a 1968 Chevy Chevelle SS.

A long-time friend (not only on Facebook but in my personal life) made a comment that he didn’t know that I knew so much about cars. Or anything about cars for that matter. Despite being a rather loud, opinionated, self-Ambulancerighteous geezer, I’ve retained the knowledge and experience of many things that I rarely, if ever, talk about. Guess they’ve just never come up in a conversation – or this blog – before.
Without further ado let me introduce you to some other facts about me:

Having grown up within direct influence of the Boomer generation my Dad and my uncles were all about the carbs – and I don’t mean faddish diets. I’m talking about double barreled fuel spewing carburetors powering machines that were finely tuned works of art. And people occasionally drove them to get from point A to point B.

Plymouth_1949My Dad bought his first car when he was 11. When he passed away in 2007 my Mom found the I.O.U. he had in his wallet for the 1949 Plymouth which he still owed $50 on. The car was long gone. He rebuilt his earliest acquisitions himself. I vaguely remember him owning a 1958 Buick when I was a wee lad before buying his first new car – a 1967 Plymouth Valiant. For the remainder of his life he owned only five other vehicles. They were his pride and joy and because money was always tight, he ensured they stayed on the road as long as possible.

I, on the other hand, drive cars until they fail. The idea of paying to slowly replace every part on the car (sometimes a dozen times – hello, alternator?)  seems far greater an expense and time killer than anything else short of actually standing in line at a DMV…or a Canadian Tire store.

DonGarlitsI was lucky enough in my childhood to witness real-life drag racing in Georgetown and still recall watching Big Daddy Don Garlits and the fabled showdowns between The Snake and The Mongoose; I saw the Helldrivers at the CNE (sponsored by British Petroleum) every August for years; witnessed smash-up derbies at the Barrie Speedway and, of course, the former Molson Indy at Exhibition Place.

Lotus TurbineDuring the Indy’s 20th anniversary I finally repaid all those amazing childhood memories by taking Dad with me where we got a free T-shirt and a tour of the Race-car Hall of Fame (located in the old Hockey Hall of Fame building). He was thrilled seeing the old Lotus Turbine and Lola cars and history of auto racing through the years.

My uncles also used to take me to Speedsport at the Automotive Building at Exhibition Place as well. This is where Hot Rods and dream machine Red Baronmodified cars came to roost. The Monkees mobile, The Batmobile, the Red Baron, The Green Mamba, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Green Hornet limo and other custom vehicles were there with their media stars to pay homage to hot rodding and cars in general.

I, of course, began taking my son to Speedorama (the distant cousin to Speedsport) when he was old enough to say “442 big block” until the TruckasaurusAutomotive Building was sold and the event killed once and for all a few years ago. Instead, we’ve been making an annual pilgrimage to SkyDome (fuck you Ted Rogers) to see Monster Jam where modified monster trucks compete to see who can destroy a $100,000 vehicle the fastest. And who doesn’t like seeing Truckasaurus – a three-storey mechanical dinosaur on wheels blowing fire across a stadium.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy son could never get me into playing first-shooter video games but the Need For Speed and Burnout games were right up my alley. What could be more fun than destroying a $500k Lamborghini at 140 MPH? And, finally, my son and I are fanatic ‘Fast & Furious’ movie fans. I recently got to drive five Dodge Charger 6.42L SRT8 Hemis  that will be featured in next year’s ‘Fast & Furious 7’.

Jaimie_Sketch1At a very young age I showed an inclination for drawing. During visits to my granny’s place there wasn’t much to do while the adults played Cribbage and discussed the latest family atrocities. My step-grandpappy would hand me the latest Little Lulu, Casper and Baby Huey comic books and a coloured pad of paper made from what could only be described as really, really cheap newsprint.

I initially copied what was in the comic books. But soon I started drawing what I saw in the room – wall clocks, the TV set, tables, chairs….and people. Jaimie_Sketch2_eagleMom & Dad were quite pleased to see I liked something other than hockey (I was in little league for 9 months of the year) so they enrolled me in Art Camp which I think in 1972 cost them $30 for the season which was a lot of money back then. The lessons went on for four summers. My folks bragged to everyone that I was going to become a ‘commercial artist’. Sure…if doodling on paper was a vocation. Otherwise, I had absolutely no aptitude for painting or crafts – though I made a small fortune weaving Jaimie_Sketch3_eaglemacramé plant hangers in my teens for the neighbourhood housewives. Something that would have gotten me beaten to a pulp had any of my friends known about it at the time.

When I was old enough to ride transit on my own I’d take the subway down to the Royal Ontario Museum and plunk myself down in front of the stuffed bird displays – originally located in the basement – and sketch for hours. I got really good at drawing penguins and eagles.

Jaimie_BeatlecomicI doodled some home-made comic books with some buddies of mine as well and seemed to inspire the direction I was heading for a possible career at Marvel or DC Comics. Alas, I picked up a guitar when I was 14 and that was the end of that pipe dream. I rarely drew or sketched or did much of anything other than high school art class. Leonard Snelgrove, my Grade 10 and 11 art teacher, was inspiring but rock and roll had a deeper hold.

Fortunately, the two disciplines collided in 1988 when I designed the cover to my band’s 2nd album – ‘Bulletproof’ – which I was able to show him at our school’s 10th anniversary reunion in 1989. He was proud that someone had carried on in the field and encouraged me to pursue more of it if I could.

Jaimie_DragonscoverWhen I finally began releasing CDs on my record label I dove into design – first using the limited Corel Draw and MS Paint programs. When Photoshop was unveiled, it was a Godsend. I would go on to design more than half of the 100 CDs we issued on Bullseye Records between 1997 and 2010. Though the label is now dead I still do freelance artwork for posters, flyers, logos and books (including my own).

Before my first birthday my mother noticed that I was having trouble holding my head up…and even sitting up. In short order it was discovered that I had two sizable blood clots in my head – one on each side. By the miraculous care of Dr. Crawford S. Anglin at East General Hospital, the clots Pleasancewere removed and I lived happily ever after…sort of. I have some vascular restrictions in my head and suffer bouts of headaches when air pressure changes back and forth quickly from high to low and back again. Headache remedies usually work and it’s business as usual. One noticeable side-effect is that I have two massive scars running up both sides of my head – making it difficult to cut my hair short without looking like Frankenstein’s monster. Time is not my friend here either. I am cursed with my grandfather’s receding forehead and fear that one day I will be sporting those scars publicly out of no fault of my own.

In 1989, while on a trip to New York City to attend the New Music Seminar I encountered a seizure in my left eye – which made everything I looked at blood red and blurry. Following my return to Canada
I ended up at Sunnybrook Hospital where they wanted to photograph and map the eye because there was already a study in place for 12 other patients with the exact same problem as me. The plan was to inject yellow food dye into my blood stream so they could take pictures of the dayglo blood flow as it passed through my eye. They strapped me into one of those optician chairs, clamped some goofy face-gear to my head and pumped Yellow Dye #666 into my system. Then the technician left the room. Within 30 seconds I began blacking out. I yelled out that I was starting to see blackness in my peripheral  – something I’d encountered twice as a child from heat prostration. I started having trouble breathing. From the extreme corner of my eye I saw a very manly nurse fly toward me in a rolling chair and punch me in the arm at 20 MPH with a syringe. I was in anaphylactic shock. Yellow eyesApparently, I was allergic to yellow dye. They got the pictures they needed. I threw up on Sunnybrook’s lawn for an hour waiting for the allergic reaction to subside. Later, I would excrete all manner of yellow die from various parts of my body. The whites of my eyes were yellow for a week. People thought I was jaundiced.

monocleOnce the photos were processed I was sent to some vision specialists – one of whom told me that a major vein in my eye was blocked and rather than processing blood to help my pupils dilate it was backing up into my cornea and pooling there. Eventually, the blood would eat through the cornea and destroy the eye. This news came from a young Jewish doctor with ZERO bedside manner. Her advice to me was to get used to monocular vision as I would lose that eye.

I went for a second opinion and got a doctor who realized immediately what was happening based on the other 12 case studies. The vein in my eye was blocked with rogue cholesterol from my very fatty liver. It’s interesting to note that at this time in my life (I was 26 years old) I was still a thin 177 pounds soaking wet, active and virile. Seems my mother-in-law’s industrial strength home cooking was slowly killing me. I was sentenced to a 3 month Heart & Stroke diet to curtail the cholesterol. It eventually worked but a small amount of damage had already taken effect and the light I see through my left eye is now slightly darker than what I see through my right.

DeafnessI’ve mentioned previously that I also have lost 30% of my hearing in my right ear from years of loud music. With that said, if I say “what?” in a conversation with you it’s not because I can’t hear…it’s because you’re talking too quietly.

Then there’s one leg shorter than the other. I’m surprised it doesn’t drag behind me like a dead stump. Needless to say it’s given me trouble with my hips and spine my entire life. I wear out right shoes and the cuffs on my pants at an alarming rate. Maybe it’s time to buy some lifts…

Early in my career as a records clerk at the former City of Scarborough Works Department I was hand picked by the manager of Administrative Services to become part of a Geographic Digital Information Team to spearhead the collection of geographic data – land surveys, satellite topographic maps, street furniture, pavement infrastructure and water Satellitemanagement services – to be married to satellite imagery and stored in a retrievable database. They called the project Geographic Information Systems (G.I.S.)  and it was created by my big boss Tom Galley. He dreamed up the idea and tag-teamed with other municipalities interested in improving in-house Works Department infrastructure. The database would allow them to pre-plan capital construction projects based on growth and population needs.

MapOnce the data collection technology and retrieval systems were created and implemented, cities all over the world would be able to adapt their own maps to this system. The City of Scarborough would license the use of the software globally and become leaders in the field. Scarborough got $42 million to do the start-up but needed early adopters to pony up and promise to help with development. Calgary got funding, several US states got funding (I think Atlanta, Chicago and Denver) and a city in Sweden that was twinned with us jumped on board.

laser penScarborough committed 15 employees around the clock to digitize and datamine over 9,300 drawings and maps. There were also three high-profile engineering firms who invested their time and staff in exchange for first right-of-refusal in use of the future technology. I, too, was given opportunity over a 6 month period in 1989/1990 to sit in a draftsman chair (based on my 5 years of high school drafting!) and overlay images of fire hydrants, water mains and manhole covers using a scanning device that looked like a laser pointer on steroids. The maps were laid out as digital grids and we were tasked with making the computer ‘see’ where these objects were physically located in the real world – underground, above ground, etc.

In the fourth year of the project, Tom Galley died of a heart attack. Others picked up where he left off. Scarborough never directly reaped the benefits of this as the City of Scarborough was amalgamated into the City of Toronto in 1997. Toronto didn’t see the financial benefits of carrying on and sold their share of the technology to pay for the administrative costs of restructuring the new city.

GPSSeveral private consortiums beta-tested and perfected the G.I.S. system and eventually the out-moded parts of the software were abandoned while the key infrastructure algorithms were purchased, patented and integrated into an even older system that had become the preferred international standard. Today, we commonly refer to that cleverly adaptable interface as GPS.

Send your CDs to: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, Ontario M1C 1J3 CANADA


Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 17 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com or http://www.bullseyecanada.com

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