Picking up where we left off from Barrieland: Meet The Neighbours (Part 3)
Disclaimer: This is Part 4 in a Series. Please read the Full Disclosure Disclaimer on Part 1 before proceeding.
And then, if you haven’t read them yet, please read the previous posts before continuing to gain full context:
In the first week that I moved into my Barrie basement suite, the upstairs neighbour brought me some food.
She had cooked a meal for her and the kids and said that they never eat leftovers, so she brought me a little care-package in a take-out container.
At this time, I of course didn’t know this woman at all and thought she had done something very kind for me. Something that no one had really ever done for me in this way after moving into a new place.
She knew it was just Dakota and I, and I thanked her for the meal despite the fact that I didn’t eat much of it. This isn’t a jab at her cooking, but given some prior food-issues I was having at my parents home that I softly alluded to in Part 1, I really just wanted to take care of myself in the way that I know is best for me personally.
Nonetheless, I had some of the chicken, and gave the carrots to Dakota; We share sometimes.
And then I hoped to myself that she would never offer me food again. And sometime after that, the whole Barrie Food Bank thing happened, so clearly, she wasn’t listening to me.
I feel bad mentioning some of these stories because I don’t mean for them to across a certain way; I know, obviously, that this woman struggles with binge-eating on some level and I very much sympathize with that, but given the scope of everything else that went on, I’ve reached a point where I have to just tell these stories in my own way.
I use humour to cope, and sometimes it is misunderstood. But at the end of the day, if you act a little messed up, don’t be surprised when people start reacting to that. (It’s you, not me).
Work Woes Beginning
Whilst all of the aforementioned issues were going on around me, I was also beginning to notice strange things about my employer and specifically my then-manager, in the way they’d speak to me.
And the e-mails that my former-coworker would forward to me, showing that I was being purposely left off of e-mail chains that were very much part of my job, were quickly leading me to understand I was about to be let go.
What ended up happening instead was a series of mentally abusive e-mails, Zoom meetings, and otherwise odd conversations that led instead to me quitting my position after having had enough of it, because while I can handle a lot on my own, to deal with the type of issues I was, several all at once, would break anyone; I’m no exception to this.
In retrospect, I should have kept fighting them, because I was left with no job, no ability to apply for EI or CERB (because if you quit, you’re illegible), and I’m quickly running out of cash all while I’m still struggling with sharing this story with the rest of you, and all while I’m trying to find a way out of this incredibly uncomfortable situation I find myself in.
But of course, I’ll talk about all that Osgoode Professional Development – York University stuff in its own post, because it merits it and people need to be aware of what these types of companies are capable of and their disregard for their employees.
The only reason I mention it now is I’m asking you readers to put yourself in my shoes, and this is what they look like at this stage in the story:
- Recently separated from her husband in what was, at bare minimum, a bad marriage and shitty relationship where she was taken advantage of both financially and emotionally
- Having just left her childhood home where she suffered further emotional and mental abuse from her own family
- Was being, at bare minimum, mistreated by her employer of going on 8 years and forced to quit her position in the midst of a global pandemic
- Had a significant COVID-19 medical scare
- Dealing with years-old debt on her own (see point 1)
- Trying and struggling to care for her dog
- And at this point in the game, no support system at all as far as “friends” were concerned, as they were all off busy doing “their own thing”
- Suspecting child abuse in her own home, right above her, every day and;
- Literally being threatened by the people who live above her for that (see again, point 8)
How do they fit?
An Odd Comfort
When I moved to Barrie there was one other thing on my mind; a person.
I’ve talked about this person a bit over Twitter for those who have been following this story on that platform, but I’ll reiterate a little bit about him here for new readers.
In my 20’s I met a guy named Dominik Adamek. We met through a mutual friend, who was one of my online friends for many years prior.
Dominik was from Barrie, Ontario, but I had met him in Toronto.
We worked on music together for some time and the basis of our relationship fell around that.
I played bass on his song “Beaches” and mixed the track for him, and also recorded the drums for it at a Toronto Rehearsal Factory. Dominik released this song on my then-record label Your Way Records and distributed it himself through Apple Music and on Soundcloud.
Dominik passed away on May 5th, 2018.
He was walking home on a Barrie side road and was struck by a car who then fled the scene. A Toyota camry.
After a 9 month investigation, they found the woman who killed him.
I have experienced a lot of loss in my life but this one affected me on an entirely different level than I had experienced before.
I spoke to Dominik not long before this happened; He was throwing a CD Release party at his Toronto condo on May 12th, 2018 – a Saturday night.
He had been working with his band on a follow-up to the “Beaches” work, something he had at one point invited me again to work on with him but I had been to busy to get up to his Orillia cottage for tracking.
He was excited to show off his work, and I was excited to listen to it with him and his friends. He didn’t send me any of the works in progress, and I hadn’t seen him in a few months, so I was looking forward to catching up.
At some point, during the week leading up to this CD Release Listening Party (of which, like 100+ people were invited; Dominik was a popular guy), I reached out to him again and never heard back.
On Friday May 11th I made my way into work as usual, commuting at the time from Davisville, Toronto (short bike ride, about 20minutes), and as I often did in those days, opened up Facebook while I made my morning coffee before starting work.
I’ll mention here, I normally got to work about 15 minutes ahead of schedule, and today was no exception to that rule.
Within a couple minutes of opening my Facebook feed, I saw a post from one of Dominik’s friend, a guy I had met a few times but didn’t know particularly well.
I read the story and was stunned.
Not wanting to believe what I read, I reached out to him immediately for information.
He didn’t have much, other than Dominik had been struck and killed the previous Saturday.
I didn’t know what to do or say and was overwhelmed instantly, in the way that it happens to me in that, I went about my day in a Zombie-like state trying not to draw attention to myself, the issue, or cry.
I didn’t tell any of my coworkers what had happened.
The next day I was at a hair salon for my wedding hair trial. Again, I was at a loss, but my mother and sister showed up to join me for the “fun” – and this is when I told them about my friend.
They didn’t offer much by ways of support, but this was normal, and they never asked me about him ever again.
They had never met Dominik and certainly didn’t know my relationship with him at this point had spanned near a decade.
When Dominik’s friends posted his EP on Soundcloud, as they knew he would’ve wanted, I couldn’t bring myself to listen to it.
I couldn’t bring myself to listen to it for over a year. Longer. A year and a half. Who can keep track.
When I was told about Dominik’s funeral, I initially planned to go.
When the day came, I couldn’t bring myself to do that either.
I regret that to this day.
I’d check in on the case periodically looking his name up, but there was never any update, and I was never close enough to any of Dominik’s friends to feel comfortable enough to ask them anything after that initial Facebook message conversation.
There were a couple things I never understood about the investigation.
- Why it took 9 months to find the driver.
- Why it took police over an hour to find his body at the side of the road.
- What the person who found him thought and saw when he found him; if it was called in right away; if anyone else had noticed him.
- What his family and friends had to go through during the 9 month investigation.
- What the woman who hit him, or rather, how she could have left him; how could she not know she hit a young man? How could she flee the scene?
- If he would have survived if she hadn’t left.
I still think about these questions.
And I wonder if she was drunk when it happened.
Not that it makes it any better or worse, but just to know, if that was the basis for fleeing; the basis for not knowing she hit my friend and left him for dead.
And I think a lot about all the times Dominik invited me over, to his place or to go camping. And all the times I declined, for one reason or another. All that time I could have spent with such a great person.
And what a piece of shit I am for not going to his funeral.
When I moved back to my parents house after separating from Matt, after dealing with everything else I had been dealing with that year and that summer, one of the first things I did was borrow my moms car to drive to Barrie.
I know some people have their opinions about taking a picture of a grave, but I took one of Dominik’s that day.
When I pulled up to the cemetary and parked (there were no other vehicles) I took a minute before getting out. I didn’t know how large or small this cemetary really was or how difficult it’d be to find his grave.
There was a maintenance person outside at this time, so I asked them if they could help.
They were very kind and knew immediately who I was talking about; guess he gets a lot of visitors.
The maintenance person asked me if I wanted to walk or ride in the little golf-cart-like vehicle he was driving. I asked him if it was far and he motioned that it wasn’t very far, so I elected to walk behind him.
Another man pulled in just as we started to make our way and stopped us to see what we were doing. The maintenance man told him I was there to see Dominik, and this new man, who was very tall and I later thought must be the owner of the cemetery based on how he was dressed, asked in response:
“Why? Is something wrong with the grave?”
I explained I had never been, and thought it was nice that Dominik’s family had chosen a cemetery that seemed to care so much about its members.
The walk was short, only a minute or two, and when we got to the section the maintenance person pointed in the general direction and said it was, “Just over there,” and then promptly left, I assume to give me space.
I was glad he did because I broke down instantly when I saw it.
I had never seen the grave before and wasn’t in any way prepared to read the engraving.
I listened to “Beaches” and “Trouble Addict” while I sat there. It was the only thing I could think to really do in that moment.
I had quit smoking weed again prior to this, but I had also brought my weed pipe with me, thinking, since I no longer drink and couldn’t open a Saporo or Zywiec with Dominik, I’d have a toke with him instead.
But ultimately I decided that would be stupid; that his parents would be disappointed, and because I was driving later, extra stupid given the way he died. Plus, I had already quit, and Dominik would’ve never pressured anybody to smoke weed, especially if he knew that I had been doing so well staying sober.
I’d stay off weed for another 3 months after this, and in December of 2020 I committed to what I hope to be a new annual tradition: I played a livestream show on his birthday where I played a very crappy version of “Beaches” he would’ve probably hated, and I played a cover of a song by one of his favourite bands that he had introduced me to years prior, Cloud Nothings.
But mostly I just sat there and cried until I couldn’t bare to let myself do it anymore, and thought he’d understand that I’d come back another time.
I still have trouble listening to his music. It’s great stuff, but it’s hard to listen to his voice knowing this is the last way I can.
Turtles In The Forest
When I moved to Barrie I did so knowing that I had no friends in that city. I knew it would be a weird time, and I knew it’d be a little lonely, but after the year I had I was ready to make new friends and start fresh as best I could.
When I’d walk around the forest in my backyard with Dakota, I’d think about what Dominik would’ve been like when he grew up here. Wondering what type of neighbourhood he lived in, if he’d ever smoked weed in this forest, what kind of school he went to and what his friends were like then.
Everywhere I went in Barrie I thought about Dominik.
When I started getting particularly sketched out with the whole thing going on with my upstairs neighbours, I started taking longer walks.
As I walked old country roads in Barrie, I thought a lot about the way he died.
I started a sort of weird crusade in those days, live-tweeting my walks along these Barrie roads, seldom of which had any sidewalks.
I recognize to any sort of stranger, these videos might have seemed odd or placed me in the “unhinged” category, but if you read the article about it, maybe you’ll understand why I felt like I had to draw attention to the lack of them.
A sidewalk might not have saved Dominik’s life that morning (many children are struck by cars simply while waiting at a stop light or riding their bike on a sidewalk), but it sure could’ve helped.
One day while exploring the woods, and it took a fair bit of time to get properly acquainted with these woods behind my house because there are several different trails that take you every which direction, I came across this rock on a rock that featured some turtles at the beach.
I was having a bad week, but this is what I now considered a “good day”. Some sort of positive sign that reminded me why I was doing what I was doing and that it had meaning, even if that meaning was just something I had invented to comfort myself.
When I found this, for a brief moment I felt like Dominik was with me on our walk, and I thought he would’ve loved to have met Dakota and play with him.
I’d come back to this rock a few times afterwards when I felt like I needed to talk to a friend.
When I was finding myself increasingly unsure of how to handle my problems with the neighbours, I started going on little Barrie-missions, and as I’d come across things that seemed odd or in any way suspicious, I’d talk about them.
There seemed to be so many things frankly wrong with this city, in that it wasn’t being well taken care of, and for some reason I started taking it upon myself to at least point these things out to people, not that I ever really suspected anyone was listening.
If nothing else, it gave me something more productive to do than sit on my hands at home waiting for e-mails that never came. But mostly, I was trying to explore the neighbourhood more, and the city as whole, because I felt like my time there was coming to a quick end.
Gypsy Moths and Other Creepy Crawlies
My upstairs neighbours were getting weirder all of the time, and I was more uncomfortable by the day, especially when I started to notice physical changes both in the apartment and in myself.
When I wasn’t working or playing music, I’d sometimes sit and watch Netflix in the kitchen and I started using Twitter way more frequently as a way to feel a bit more connected to the outside world which had seemingly left me behind.
I barely had visitors while I lived in Barrie, and every time I invited people, they’d normally decline. The only people who visited me while I was there were my sister Jodie, a handful of times normally just to drop something off for me, my dad for the same reason, and on exactly 1 occasion for about 2 hours, my friend Daniel came by during the gypsy moth caterpillar infestation section of the Saga.
It must have still been May when I was dealing with this issue. I kid you not, every day for literal weeks, I spent a significant part of every single day sweeping these caterpillar’s off my porch, the decking, and killing them when they came into the apartment.
These things are also biters who would literally fall from the sky even when you were walking through the neighbourhood (they hang from silk and get picked up by the wind) and then these bites often cause allergic reaction in people and I assume animals alike, because Dakota was incredibly irritated by them as well.
I would joke about this, but it was literally driving me bananas.
Sometime in June Mayor Jeff Lehman was on the news talking about how there in fact isn’t an infestation at all, and to that I scoffed and responded that he clearly hadn’t been hanging out much in the Ardagh Bluffs, because these things were terrorizing the entire neighbourhood.
At one point, a man I met while walking Dakota told me to go to the other side of town and walk Dakota on those trails, (ours became virtually unusable for weeks during this) because there wasn’t an infestation on THAT side of town, and I thanked him for the info but again, since I don’t have a car, that wasn’t a viable option.
And Gypsy Moth Caterpillars weren’t the other thing we were dealing with.
Remember how I mentioned Dakota hurt himself? Turns out our forest is also home to many, many snakes!
I looked up these snakes, too, of course, and yeah, they say they’re basically harmless. The weirder part was that all sort sof seemingly “baby snakes” were constantly in my apartment, and I swear on one occassion after returning home out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw mama snake slither behind Dakota’s dog food bin and into the vents.
I didn’t think anything of it really then (since snake was not behind the bin when I looked), but later James told me they had a problem with these snakes being in their part of the house.
And at this time time, especially at night, I’d hear their dog and cat running around like lunatics above me. I started to wonder if mama Snake was trying to feast on these otherwise-much-smaller-than-Dakota pets and in the process was leaving little baby eggs all over the place.
At times I’d be outside suntanning on my back patio and I’d hear the distinct sound of a snake slithering up behind me; these snakes got big and fast!
I’m also starting to notice that every time I brought up issues like this over text message, my landlord then wanted to hop on a phone call with me about it instead, which is no big deal except for the fact that this is why I don’t necessarily have record of every little conversation I was having with him; I personally prefer text so that I can go back and verify what we were talking about.
As I mentioned before, we were having some odd weather this summer but it certainly wasn’t being made any better by the fact that the upstairs tenant’s were running the A/C almost all day every single day, and the vents in my suite were so poorly made that they didn’t ever actually close all the way. I’d later use duct-tape to keep them shut and the air out, but that ended up being right before I moved out, so a little too late.
I’d also notice that most of the time the upstairs tenants also kept the windows wide open, and as my dad would say, I’d think to myself: What are you trying to do, cool down the outside?
This is not a very effective house cooling method.
I also noticed something else that on its own might not be considered that odd, but it is.
These tenants would leave the outside lights on all day every day, specifically, the one that lit up the driveway area that faced out the street.
Now why is that odd, you might be asking yourself?
Well at bare minimum it meant they had no regard for the high cost of hydro, which I assumed my landlord was also including in their rent.
But it can mean a couple other things, too, which again, I probably would not have even considered if it wasn’t for the pitter patter of several feet in and out of the house at all hours of the day, sometimes while their car wasn’t in the driveway, or when I otherwise knew they had left together.
In one of my many phone calls to my landlord I brought this up after we discussed again, some of my other concerns with these tenants.
Me: Hey, do you happen to know what it can mean when someone leaves a light on their house all day, like outside on the garage?
Landlord/Former police officer: Uh, yeah, well, it can mean a couple things. Why?
Me: Well because the upstairs people do this.
Landlord: Uh, so what do you mean?
Me: Well, sometimes it can be used as a signal to other people, like to tell people that they sell drugs or, other things, too.
I’ll note here, there are 2 other houses on Hawthorne that do this with absolute regularity. Now, whether or not those are the same two houses I frequently saw the upstairs tenants children at, I can’t recall.
Landlord agreed with me that yeah, sometimes people do that (it’s a thing, Google it). And then he started to say something about how he also knew that sometimes you can detect weed houses from above using heat-technology, from all the lights people would keep on.
Which is also true of course, but it wasn’t exactly what I was getting at with my own comment and I was a little unsure why he mentioned it at the time.
And then I asked him another question.
Me: Hey, what’s your hydro like these days?
Him: Not bad. Why?
Me: Just wondering.
In addition to the lights and A/C, I also frequently heard the bath tub running late at night, and the laundry machines going at all hours of the day. And again, it could very well be that my former landlord truly doesn’t care about these costs, but they were the kind of strange non-routine-routine’s that made me seriously question what was going on upstairs.
The A/C issue was a serious one for me for a couple reasons. For one, I was absolutely freezing and it was summer time. Honestly I’m sick of being cold all the time, between this house in Barrie, my parents house in Vaughan, and my former house in King City, I feel like I’ve just been frozen solid for years now.
Thankfully though in Barrie I had a handy little portable heater that I could put on all day every day when I was home and place it directly in front of me for maximum heat. I “borrowed” this from my parents house thinking it wouldn’t be an issue, which my mom one day texted me about wondering where it had gone, because she had bought it for my room (the room that was now vacant and didn’t require heating), and her tone implied it was a bit of an issue.
For another, the air quality seemed to seriously be affecting me and for a while I wasn’t sure why.
One day I came home and when I passed by the upstairs tenants door, the boy came out and introduced me to someone new.
The boy, holding out a cat: This is our cat.
Me: I’m allergic, so I’ll stay away.
And I left.
I didn’t know until that day that they had a cat, I thought they only had Snewfie.
When I asked my former landlord if the upstairs tenants had a cat, he initially told me they didn’t.
To which I replied: Actually, yes, they do, and I’ve met them.
He seemed unfazed by this.
The point of this short story is to reiterate that this landlord had no idea who his tenants were or what they had or did.
And I mention it because I also noticed that there was a significant amount of dirt that would come through my downstairs vents, and so I started to suspect that the cat hair was also making its way into my apartment which might have been causing my sneezing and otherwise, similar allergy-symptoms/reactions.
High quality air ventilation is very important to me, especially during Covid-19, and especially when there are unvaccinated children living above me and trying to talk to me all the time.
Another thing I’ll note that seems important to share at this stage, generally for the first few weeks when I’d walk past the upstairs tenants floor where they have several windows, the curtains would all be closed. Not that I’m the type of person who would peep through someones windows anyways, but given the strange noises I’d hear directly above me, I found myself quickly wondering what type of room was in there.
One day as I walked by one of the windows had its curtains drawn well enough and I caught a quick look and I saw that there was a small bed in this room.
I found this odd.
I actually at this point thought that, because of the way my former landlord kept mentioning this “neighbourhood and house is safe” thing, that hell, maybe these people are literally being weened off of drugs and this is a literal ‘safe house’. I thought maybe there might be more bedrooms in it than I would’ve thought for the style of house which would explain all the activity.
That’s how often I heard weird noises above me. I thought it might be a bedroom. And now I noticed a very real small single bed, confirming that in a way. But the rest of the room didn’t look like a bedroom, and it’s also where the eldest child would do his schoolwork and play on the computer, based on the other sounds I’d hear from there.
And then I noticed something else very strange one day while walking home and up the lawn at the side of the driveway (which is where I’d normally walk as to avoid any sort of conversation with Rhonda and James who spent a lot of time now in the garage; could’ve been because of the insane gypsy moth caterpillar infestation that had overtaken the backyard, or it could’ve been because of all the smoking they liked to do in the garage while the A/C cooled down the house, who knows!).
I looked up and for the first time after several weeks of living in this house, I saw something that I also can’t forget.
The room upstairs was boarded up. Like, with actual wooden boards. The kind of boards you’d put on a house about to be torn down.
And who was that that stayed in that room?
Sure looks a lot like their little girl.