JAIMIE VERNON – THE SKY HAS NO HANDLES

vernon_1997My day job – moving Chryslers from one parking space once they’re unloaded from the factory trucks to another parking space one hundred feet away to be loaded onto trains by another driver making $1.00 more per hour a la ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVACbEHkV2Q – slowed to a screeching halt this week. No, it isn’t because the Motor City declared bankruptcy. That was just a frightening coincidence.

CarYou see, Chrysler shuts its Brampton manufacturing plant for two weeks every summer to redecorate, clean out employee Plantlockers of old rotting food stuff and 1970s Playboy pin-up posters, and retool the factory floors so they can start cranking out next year’s 2014 cars to hit the market starting this coming Labour Day weekend.

They literally rip out the old machines and put in new ones so that the 2014 cars will look exactly the same as the 2013’s…but have altered tail-lights, a dashboard entertainment system minus AM/FM radio (which the car makers unanimously killed off in May), and a fresher 2014 ‘new car smell’ – a newcardeadly combination of proven chemical carcinogens created when the closed passenger compartment bakes in the 40-plus-celsius heat all year long. Do yourself a favour: air out your car before you get into it from now on. That new car smell will kill you.

Anywho…

cartransportNeedless to say, my work load has been slow now that Chrysler has stopped shipping us cars to re-park for the next two weeks. Fear not! My bosses have been putting me to work doing other parking jobs elsewhere in our 5,000 car facility. For a change of pace I’ve been parking cars, SUV’s, pick-up trucks, and cube vans that come off of trains and go back onto trucks for the likes of Honda, KIA, Hyundai, Toyota, Chevy and GMC among others. After the 100th car in the day it becomes monotonous and dangerous particularly in the record setting heat.

One of the guys who inspects cars that come in by rail is transferring out to Vancouver and his job is now vacant. “How would you like to fill in for him until Chrysler comes back online?” They asked me.

CrawlingHmmm…Crawling around on my hands and knees in 5 foot high claustrophobic rail compartments looking for tire scuffs and bumper dents in the near dark during the worst heat wave since the residents of Pompeii partied with Vesuvius? Where do I sign up to ride Satan’s butt-crack?!!

Saying no was not an option. I’m only 6 months in with this company and one thing I’ve learned in my 35 years as an asshole-bodied employee is that you say “yes” to everything…and do everything exactly as instructed until you can eventually be promoted and have some other droog do it for you.

busI was handed a Mag-Light and put on a tiny school bus with the company’s other inmates (safety headgear optional). Laughter ensued when they found out *I* was going to step on a train. It’s not like it was unprecedented. I initially got hired to work at the company’s west end train yard as a car inspector for the trucks unloading. On occasion I would help the train guys open the massive steel doors on the rail cars so they could unload them…or lift and load the narrow 3-foot steel plates that bridge the gap between the rail cars so automobiles could be driven across. The plates are 60 lbs. each. The train doors are a few hundred. I preferred staying on the ground and driving really fast – on purpose – to lifting crap that would ultimately mean a visit to a hernia clinic.

FireThe bus dropped me and my trainer in front of the rail head where we were greeted by four rail lines featuring 4 two-level train cars on each for a total of 40 automobiles requiring our attention. The trainer scurried up the ladder on the first rail car. By ladder, I mean rusted pipes no stronger than what might pass for an old wrought-iron fire escape. In Chicago. During the Great Fire of 1871.

trainI tucked the Mag-Light under one arm and began the ascent like a vertical climb on death row. The trainer was already on the second deck – 20 feet up. I got to where I was eye level to his knees…and there was no more ladder. Like the Friendly Giant I looked up. Then at him. Then up. “C’mon, man, let’s go. There’s one more step.”

Ummm. No there wasn’t. There was the top rail of the ladder. But nothing to hold onto above it. The sky did not have a handle to grab onto. Turns out the final hand hold was on the roof of the train. You had to reach over the curving rooftop to get at it. Nope. Nope. Nope. Can’t do that shit.

“What’s the matter?” He said. I heard another voice. It was the bus driver, “He’s panicking!! Are you okay, man?”

parkingNo. No I wasn’t. I looked at the trainer. “I’m terrified. I can’t do this.””C’mon. You can do it.”
I couldn’t. I threw him the Mag-Light and climbed down in reverse and walked back across the 5,000 car parking lot and rejoined the team pulling cars to load onto trucks. I didn’t lose my job and it was never spoken of again. The sky has no handle indeed.

fearlessIt’s a metaphor for success. Who knows what I might be doing down the line had I been able to grab that hand grip on the roof of the train. When I was a young and stupid 20-something I did it all the time. I didn’t know you were supposed to be afraid of shit. There was no limit. No failure. No impediment to anything I wanted to achieve. Now, as I sneak up on my 50th birthday in November everything seems to have a speed limit, a dead end or is missing handles – well, except the belly-fat kind.

I’m not giving up, of course, I just need to evaluate my current capabilities and create a new me. It’s kind of late in life, but I’ve been there, conquered that and fucked up a slew of other things most people don’t even get a chance at in the first place. Time to pluck up the courage to not fear failure at my age. It, and not aging itself, might be the biggest soul sucking distraction we face.

tobogganIf it’s indeed a downhill adventure from here on in then I’m getting on a toboggan and enjoying the ride – with a baseball bat to address the unsightly mailboxes and my best gal at my side to document it with photos. It means leaving the past behind and living in the next moment. It means eliminating “those were the days”, “in our time”, and “things were better when…” from my daily discussions.

You know why it seems better in the past? Because there was always that handle to hold onto. An anchor. A piece of yourself that either didn’t give a shit or could be overcome because you were gonna live forever! Now growing up means giving a shit about what happens next – and it’s scary staring at the barrel of that gun. You retreat into safety. Into the same old family & friends, into reruns of old TV shows and movies, and into old Classic Rock. You are now the curator of a stunted museum exhibit of your own life whose last notable addition was a concert you attended in 1988. That was 25 years ago. That’s 25 years of non-living. Of missing out on new friends, new music, new TV shows and movies.

groundhogNo, it won’t be the same. It’s not supposed to be. You are not Bill Murray. And this is not ‘GroundhogDay‘ We’re given 365 1/4 days per year to live our lives. Why in the world would you want to spend 70, 80 or 90 years doing the same thing every one of those days?

One of my grandmothers did it for 95 years. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. At least 30 of those years spent angry over shit that happened 40 years before that! It was a lonely place for her to live. It’s the prison she died in. It’s a prison for so many people. Facebook profiles are beginning to look like a tour of the jail they live in. The least they could do is spice it up with a conjugal visit or two.

spontaneousMy daughter and her boyfriend now challenge themselves often by doing something new and spontaneous they’ve never done before. They try new food, go see movies they’ve never heard of and listen to any and all new music. Alot of it they end up disliking…but it’s a learning curve that will pay off through trial and error. And the anecdotes will be far more enduring when one of them can say “Remember that time we did…” and the other one says, “The last time or this time?”
Both events will have great stories, no doubt.

leavethehouseGet out of your rut. Get out of your house. Get out of your safety zone. To paraphrase a cliché from the past: I want to see people live for today rather than espousing the loss of all that came before – cause, well, who really cares at the end of the day? I don’t. ‘Cos I don’t live ‘back in the day’ and I’ve removed the rear-view mirror.

I will continue living tomorrow as if I never climbed that train.

Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA

=JV=

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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