Picking up where we left off from Barrieland: Well Now That Doesn’t Look Right (Part 8)
Disclaimer: This is Part 9 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:
- Barrieland: The Complete Story (Part 1)
- Barrieland: Moving In (Part 2)
- Barrieland: Meet the Neighbours (Part 3)
- Barrieland: Ghosts, Ghouls & Other Things (Part 4)
- Barrieland: Home Alone (Part 5)
- Barrieland: Am I Losing It? (Part 6)
- Barrieland: Hello, I’d Like to Speak to a Medical Professional? (Part 7)
- Barrieland: Well Now That Doesn’t Look Right (Part 8)
- Barrieland: The Lost Files (Part 9); You are here.
Seriously, though, Barrie, what’s wrong with you?
This blog is titled The Lost Files because I’m going to rapid fire through a couple other experiences I had in Barrie that I can’t necessarily recall where they fell in the big picture.
In Part 10, I’ll talk more about when I took reprieve from Barrie for a few days and went up to my family’s Muskoka cottage and the text message exchange with Skippy that followed that, plus, finally, we’ll go through our entire moving out experience which we did by ourselves on a day where, thankfully, the upstairs tenants happened to be out for the day.
As I’ve mentioned before I always knew Barrie had an issue with opioid use, but after living there a few months and without reading any real data about it, it seems all but confirmed most people in this town do some serious drugs. This is just my perception of course based on the interactions I had with people while I was here and the general state of the buildings and businesses here.
To be clear, when I say I “knew Barrie had an issue with opioid use” I mean, this is what people not from Barrie, think of Barrie. I didn’t start the rumours, folks, but now I completely buy in.
Wooden Kebab Stick
There was one day I spent walking around the Barrie woods trying to clear my head and focus on anything other than what I suspected was going on with the upstairs tenants and I checked out some new trails (new in that, I just hadn’t walked them before). I took note of the stones that lay underneath the soil and wondering about what Barrie looked like in “ye olden days”.
On this day I had an odd interaction where I felt like I was being in some way followed, and a man eventually walked past and said hello to me; he was wearing black sunglasses like the ones pictured above, and when he spoke I noticed he not only looked exactly like Jason Parsons of U.S.S, but he sounded like him, too. Jason has a pretty distinct voice, and it’s hard to miss if you’ve spent any sort of time previously speaking to him as I have over the years. Again, I’m not saying it was him for sure, but later I found these sun glasses on Post #30, and I noted it down as another odd Barrie coincidence.
I mention this story not for the sake of inserting Ubiqutious Synergy Seeker into it, but because the interactions I began having at a certain point seemed directly tied to things I was talking about on my Twitter, and I’ve mentioned this band and Jason & one of his brothers on there.
It made me wonder if the reason certain people were avoiding talking to me was because people were misinterpreting what I was aying on Twitter and not asking me about it, adn then drawing their own conclusions.
Like when the upstairs tenant James remarked that he thought I had famous friends. I don’t really, unless you include these types of people that I’ve simply met a couple times over like, a decade.
So, to be clear about why I mentioned this band on Twitter during my Barrie days; I met my ex-husband through a then-“mutual friend” of this band. He’s a rapper from Stouffville, Ontario named Ryan. Life is funny in that it runs around in circles in ways you wouldn’t expect.
For example, and I’ll do my best to summarize this briefly:
My brother Matt met Ryan at a Kid Cudi concert; he was freestyling, something he did often.
My brother Matt gave me Ryan’s contact after he told Ryan I was an audio engineer, at the time working for Metalworks Studios/Rattlebox Studios etc.
I met Ryan for the first time at an Earl’s in Vaughan, Ontario; we both ordered a Kokanee (uncommon for Ontario).
Ryan & I would then go on to become friends in a way that was focused on creating music; I considered this a working-relationship, nothing more; we never hung out unless it was related to music and production or talking about it, but this also meant sometimes parties, concerts, and so on.
I met Jason Parsons/Human Kebab & Ash of U.S.S for the first time at Wegz Stadium Bar in Vaughan, Ontario where they were playing a show; bands don’t often play in Vaughan, we don’t really have live music venues, so this was a treat.
Ryan happened to have grown up with Jason and Ash due to Stouffville’s close proximity to Markham, Ontario, a city I would later visit more frequently due to their growing local music scene. I’d often put but $8 of gas in my car to get there from Vaughan, something Jason mentioned at the end of his “Stationary Robbery” song which I’d laugh about; it’s true!
I’d go on to work on Ryan’s music with his many iterations of Chasing Jane, including briefly playing bass for them.
As a result of my friendship with Ryan, I’d spend a bit more time in Stouffville & Markham and I met Jason’s brother Josh at Ryan’s house when they were throwing one of their many get-togethers, or parties; like the one where the cops had to be called because the noise was so loud after Ryan hooked up several P.A speakers (or rather, had me connect them).
When I put together one of my then-annual Your Way Records shows, I had Josh host the evening; Josh is very funny, very charismatic, smart and great with people. He did a great job.
On that note, all the bands I ever had played Your Way did great, too. It was still super early in the Your Way days, so just about everyone who participated in these events did it for free which I was always appreciative of. The idea in my mind at the time was that, in time, I’d be able to bring them back and pay them appropriately; this is also how I navigated much of my recording studio engineering career, because internships, also known as, “free labour,” were so commonplace, I always thought I was still just ‘earning my keep’ so to speak and I operated these types of shows in the same type of way.
One New Year’s Eve Ryan invited me to Jason Parson’s house before we went to Tattoo Rock Parlour (its since closed down, like many Toronto music venues/clubs) where Human Kebab (that’s Jason) would be DJ’ing.
As a result I met the rest of Jason’s siblings, although I had already met his sister a couple of times, again through Ryan and his family. Ryan used to tell me the strangest things about these people; I won’t share them unless they ever become relevant to the point of these posts, but let’s just say, Ryan has a lot of opinions of his old Stouffville and Markham pals.
At this Tattoo Rock Parlour show I met Liam from Not By Choice (this is how old I am). I was stoked, I was a big fan of their first record and when I fronted my high-school band A Big Dumb Rocketship, we’d play one of their singles often. I bought Liam a shot from the bar which was my way of showing appreciation for his music and nothing more. I mention this because I was told someone in the vicinity had been blowing off Liam’s advances for some time and I wouldn’t be surprised if they thought I was trying to hit on him, since that’s a common way to strike up a conversation you don’t know any want to talk to.
I got a little too drunk at this New Year’s show and I’m not sure what all happened but Ryan told me I was in fact so drunk that I was looking for cigarettes, something I had long since quit, so I knew it was a bad night for me; They (presumably the people I arrived with) eventually put me in a cab by myself and sent me back to Vaughan: This is remarkably unsafe and I had no money to pay the cab driver which resulted in another unsafe situation for me personally when the I woke up in the back of the cab a little disoriented in Vaughan and the driver was asking me for further direction from here; we were at the Langstaff/Weston Road intersection which fortunately is real close to my family’s place.
Realizing I had no cash on hand (still had my wallet and phone, thank God), I asked the driver to stop over at the gas station so I could try to pull money out of the ATM, but I knew I didn’t have any money in my bank account. But, I did go back to the cab driver and said to him: Hey, I actually can’t pull out any money, but if you drive me the rest of the way (it’s close!) I can get money from my house (where I had cash on hand).
The cab driver didn’t like this idea at all and I’m not sure how he otherwise expected me to pay for my fare, if you know what I mean.
He got really angry when this happened, telling me “I had to pay the fare, had to pay the fare”, he had driven all this way, I have to pay the fare; I panicked.
I ran away from the gas station at full speed (thank you, practical flat shoes), and the cab driver started to follow me, but I’m fast.
I called my dad after I got a bit of a ways away and asked him to come meet me; he did!
I can’t remember if we ever paid the cab driver.
I’m not sure which point of the night I blacked out but, I was always generally very careful about my intake when I hung out with people I didn’t know. Maybe someone else can clear this part up for me? Bueller?
The above situation is one that I vaguely tweeted about, and, I also was mentioning Josh in my tweets because I thought he might be able to back me up on the fact that Ryan, who is very much someone who hangs out with people he can use in some way shape or form, used to always say that he wrote many of U.S.S’s biggest hits, and that Ash would steal his lyrics.
I said this because I find it hilarious and in no way believe that Ash would use Ryan’s lyrics; the two people, based on my limited interactions with Ash, could not be more different.
My friendship with Ryan ended sometime during when I was playing bass for Chasing Jane; he had already used me for money & free audio engineering labour, rides, gas, and so on, and had not paid me back. When it came time for my ex and I to get married, I did not want to invite Ryan and this posed a problem.
My ex-husband (from Toronto) met Ryan (from Stouffville) when he attended university in Ottawa; they were in the same residence building.
And how did I meet my ex-husband? At a Chasing Jane show, when I moved to Toronto (from Vaughan), on my birthday.
And around, around we go again…
Speaking of Sunglasses
On another day, while walking around a residential area I hadn’t been to before, I came across the funniest house and I really wish I had a picture of it.
It had all sorts of stuff on its lawn and gates, and what I noted about this one was specifically how Canadian it was, and how they put sunglasses on rocks as if to make little people. I can’t really describe the other items that were there or why they made me laugh out loud that day, but it reinforced for me that it was entirely possible some improv comic guys could be in town and doing some silly skits. If so, well played, dudes. I’d see silly stuff around Barrie often so I was always in some way on the look-out.
This day was more notable for a different reason though. As I walked I approached a house with a U-Haul moving truck and I kid you not there were like 10-12 people helping this family move out of this house; You just don’t see that on moving day!
As I walked by, and again just marvelling at how many kind helpful friends this family had, I cheekily said, “Have fun moving!”
And a woman responded: Would you like to help us?
I had half a mind to join in on the fun but truly, they had enough hands. Instead I used the opportunity to ask a question I had on my mind. I said to her, “I’m actually moving tomorrow, I was wondering if you knew if I’d be able to buy boxes directly from U-Haul, or if you know somewhere else I could get some?”
This was literally the reason I was out walking that day, although I took some detours for my own amusement, I was going to head to Dollerama for some boxes since I hadn’t otherwise purchased any and wasn’t sure I had enough room in my storage bins.
Two of the women helped me for a moment, telling me they thought I could get boxes from U-Haul but also from Dollerama or Dollar Tree. I thanked them for their help and made my way to Dollarama; no boxes.
And I really was moving the next day. By myself. No help.
I had half a mind to request a couple of these people come over to my place, but I didn’t.
Speaking of Moving
In the weeks leading up to me leaving Barrie, I noticed the neighbourhood was busier than usual. Specifically, a ton of people were moving! And not just moving, they were all renting those big garbage bins and big storage containers that would sit on their driveways while they did. And so many of these houses had boarded up windows or other oddities.
Canadian storage cube’s seemed particularly common. I was starting to notice this stuff everywhere, but frequently in my own neighbourhood and several times on my street itself. All within the same couple weeks. I’m not saying that’s suspicious, except it absolutely is. It felt like the neighbourhood was being raided but in a low key way; no police cruisers.
There was also an uptick in the amount of people that owned RV’s as though suddenly everyone here was a camper.
This house pictured above is right at the end of Hawthorne, and every time I passed by it I had to take a look.
What first stood out to me about this house is it’s not in the greatest shape, yet it’s in better shape than most in this part of the Ardagh Bluffs.
But they had the strangest selection of things in their backyard; the canoe stood out to me first, but over weeks there’d be more items back here, like what you see in the photo above; skids, random chairs that weren’t there before, and so on. And, I’d notice many different people entering and exiting at various times of the day, odd looking people often carrying brown paper lunch bags with them; not something you see often these days what with the fancy new lunchboxes kids use now; also, these were adults. I suspected this was a drug house where people would come to buy/sell. They also had a big concrete boot on the porch which is what you can sort of see pictured on the stoop in the above left picture; not something you see every day.
And in the last week or so of being in the neighbourhood, a woman started hanging around outside this place, even making comments to me as I walked by and spending time in the suddenly always open garage. Just weird, when you notice the behaviour of a home change suddenly and new people hanging around.
This was something I noticed about the upstairs tenants at my place, too.
Often when I’d come home, they’d have the most random new items. I started to feel like their garage was some mystical cave where items appeared out of thin air.
Again, I was under the impression these people were quite poor, and while the state of many of these items seemed to verify that (bar stools requiring reupholstery for example), there were often new items that seemed new to the kids, too; meaning, they were newly acquired.
For example, one day I came home and they were fitting the eldest boy with a “new” snowboard. This was in like, June. An odd time for it – it wouldn’t be until after that that I learned he had a birthday coming up (allegedly).
And one day, they suddenly had a big hutch with shelves. They tried to get rid of it but unless you tag a large item like this with a sticker from the city (which you have to pay for) the garbage people won’t pick this stuff up. They eventually moved it back onto the driveway and would use it to store their many recycling bins.
Other things would pop up all the time on the curb; old paintings, coffee tables, the aforementioned bar stools. They were either cleaning up the house or they were bringing these items home from somewhere.
My upstairs tenants were also incredibly messy, often leaving newspapers out on their doorstep for weeks, piling up to become 3-4 at a time. This was also worrisome to me given all of our other interactions; These people were home every day and in and out of the house frequently but they had started using the garage exclusively.
If I hadn’t been seeing them physically every day, the newspaper pile up would start to make me wonder if someone had died inside, because there’s otherwise no logical reason for that to suddenly start happening, unless of course they were on heavy drugs and too lazy to take care of an otherwise simple task.
There was also often food remnants all over the driveway and yard, kids toys scattered everywhere, and their bikes of course which they began leaving outside instead of putting them in the garage which definitely had space when Rhonda and James weren’t smoking up a storm in there.
On one day in particular, my sister came for a visit. I went outside with her as she left and that’s when I noticed another totally bizarre thing: Rhonda and James had a little fire pit… in the garage.
My sisters comment about this was, “That’s nice!” Like, cute little garage fire!
After my sister left, as I walked back up the driveway, my comment was: That makes me nervous.
No sane person would put a portable fire in a garage unless they were trying to literally set the house ablaze. They put the fire out shortly after I left. The A/C was still rockin’ inside.
And one day, there was an entire garbage bin full of large sticks; like the one the boy brought down into my yard that day when he told me he liked to sharpen them into stakes for fun. Again, just something that is pretty odd because if the kids had for some reason brought these sticks back from the forest, surely they could get rid of them by dumping them back into the forest, no? Unless there was some reason they didn’t want to do that?
Other Visitors at 58 Hawthorne
On one occasion I came home to see a young girl in the garage with James and he actively avoided eye contact with me, instead continuing to close-talk with her. As I remember this now I sincerely hope nothing happened with this girl; she seemed a little uncomfortable sitting in a lawn chair beside him. She was a pre-teen, at best, I suspect.
Speaking of people being over the house; sometimes I’d wake up in the middle of the night and hear people. Specifically, on one occasion, I heard what sounded like several feet coming through the side/front door very quickly. I didn’t hear any sort of loud bang before this as you’d see in TV/Movie police raids, but the fast pace of these feet made me think that that’s exactly what was happening; a storm of officers running into the house at once.
I stayed up for some time after this but the noise ended quickly, and nobody came back through the main door.
It was shortly after this that I noticed something else about row-houses that I didn’t know. If you stand on my former back patio facing the forest and turn to the fence on the right, and then approach that fence and look right again, you’ll see there is a green door. This doesn’t appear to be a door for the house beside us, instead it appeared to me this was like an a emergency exit door. Another way into my home, is how I viewed it then, and now, thinking back to those many feet coming in but not coming out, I wonder if they made their way through all of the houses in our row.
And remember how I said that the person I saw arrested outside of RVH that day looked a lot like the white haired guy that lived beside me? Yeah, I never saw him again after that day.
I did see something else at that house though.
The odd woman that lived on the same floor as the white haired man continued about her business minding her plants on the balcony, which may be neither here nor there, just that that’s all I ever saw this lady doing, never actually spending time on the balcony otherwise.
One day while I was leaving my house with Dakota for a walk, there was a very large white man with glasses in a white shirt speaking to the other neighbour that lived in this house, the brown guy with black curly hair (I never really spoke to this guy but he’d often be out working on his car or doing other work in the driveway). I wasn’t exactly looking to pay attention to these people, but the big white guy saw me with my dog and asked me some questions about him when he saw us.
White man: Is that a bermese?
People often make this mistake. Bermese are a type of snake, Bernese are the dog breed.
Me: Yeah, he’s a Bernese.
White man: Is he friendly? How is he with people usually?
This would normally be a sort of common question for dog-lovers who are interested in learning about a breed, but this was an odd interaction from the jump especially since I’d just walked out of my house.
Me: Yeah he’s usually pretty good with people. Usually just needs a treat or two to get comfortable.
I don’t know why I offer up information like this willingly except fro the fake that I’m a really shitty liar.
White man, changing the subject: How are his hips? My friend (or something) has a Bernese who had pretty bad hips and she’s only like (a young age).
This is true of all large breed dogs really, their hips are usually the first to go if you’re not very careful about watching out for it.
Me: His hip are actually great, he’s only 5 and he doesn’t often need to use stairs, never has (this is true).
White man: That’s really good, yeah, her (the other Bernese he referenced) are in bad shape.
While we were having this chat, which pretty much ended at this point as he turned his attention back to the brown guy, I had noticed that the brown guy was holding a brown envelope. For some reason, and again I had no context for thinking this other than, looking at these two people and the way they were speaking to each other, I thought that this must be what it looks like when someone gets served papers, like from a mandated “server”.
For example, if you get divorced and you and your spouse don’t agree on the terms and you file for a “Simple” divorce instead of “Joint”, you have to serve the other person papers but it can’t be done by yourself, you have to assign someone to do it for you. I figured that must be what this was. You also just don’t normally see people handing off brown envelopes like this outside an office.
Friend or Foe?
My upstairs tenants frequently switched between, “we love your music” and “you’re too loud” with me, seemingly when it suited their agenda which I was never made aware of what it was.
On one day, Rhonda sent me a text message with a picture of about 6 kids sitting at a table saying, “they love your music!” as though to encourage me further. I often still wonder who all these children were and why they were in the care of Rhonda and James. I later sent this photo to two friends of mine, telling them, “check out my audience”, as a joke, because a lot of my music isn’t necessarily young-child-friendly. I wouldn’t normally share a picture like this, but I figured if this woman sent me this photo, it was okay for me to share it in this way with two people who I at the time, trusted not to share it with anyone else. One of these people has a daughter so I assumed this was something I didn’t need to explain.
Speaking more on that; Remember how Rhonda told me James was so not her boyfriend? To elaborate, what she said was that he was just a friend over to help her out as she was going through a hard time (divorce). Which is why I found it increasingly weird when I’d overheard James refer to the kids as “his kids” and how often he’d be home alone with them. He talked to them as though he was their literal father, a father who sometimes had a temper, but not as bad of a temper as Rhonda. Sometimes he even tried to tell Rhonda to cool it, so it was very hard to read his relationship with these kids.
And I mentioned before that Rhonda and James in particular would be much harder on their little girl, more so than their boy. At night I’d often hear her coming out of her room (I assumed) crying her heart out. And I’d hear James and Rhonda yell at her to get back into it. And I’d often hear what sounded like this little girl getting into baths by herself; running the water, while Rhonda and James yelled at her.
And then the washing machine would start and I’d wonder if she had wet the bed. Several times a week.
Of course I never knew for sure if she had wet the bed, but I made this assumption based on the noises above me. I actually had the same problem as a young girl, something I don’t often tell anybody about; but yes, it’s true, I’m like Miles Davis. That’s an Adam Sandler reference, let me know when you figure out what movie it’s from.
When this little girl would see me outside she would always try to talk to me, but I truly couldn’t understand a word. But she was kind, very sweet. One day I saw her riding her bike, she was all the way down the street, and I remarked to her mother Rhonda, “she’s doing great, she’s fearless.” She was pedalling up a storm.
Rhonda replied, “Yeah, she is fearless. Much better than me, I can’t even ride a bike.”
I wasn’t surprised by that comment, but I was often surprised when Rhonda agreed with the things I said about her daughter given the constant berating I’d overhear.
Sometimes when I’d leave the house, this little girl would follow me and try to join me wherever I was going. This made me uncomfortable for what I assume are obvious reasons; I didn’t understand why she trusted strangers so much and why she always wanted to be around me when she knew I was home. She’d even ask me where I was going and when I’d be back. And sometimes when Rhonda would catch her doing this, she’d yell at her for it.
Rhonda: “Don’t follow her.”
Sometimes the boy would follow me too and since he was a little older I’d try to ask him not to by explaining I was going to work or to run an errand and didn’t have time to chat.
I feel really terrible for all the times I personally avoided speaking to these children, but I really didn’t know what to do about everything going on, especially when I’d see them at neighbour’s houses and didn’t understand why they were over there with no other children while Rhonda and James stayed in their garage.
Other Barrie Oddballs
During the what I will now refer to as the Barrie house raids, I met a few other interesting characters.
I met a French man who had a young boy who started walking our block often and we spoke on more than on occasion. He was either brand new to the neighbourhood or was there incognito. His kid is super cute and he’d speak French to him. His kid was learning about potty training and we had a brief interaction where his kid definitely needed to pee; he saw Dakota take a wee and the boy then crouched down as if to mimic him. The man explained this is a thing kids just do when they see animals doing this; I know nothing about kids and potty training and I find this hilarious.
This isn’t the reason I’m telling this story (but isn’t that actually so funny?); One day while I was walking in the woods again (as I do), I came across a mother and her daughter. Her daughter had to pee and was just finishing up in the woods. I found this hilarious, too, because the mother seemed embarrassed, apologizing for her daughter as I passed, to which I replied loud enough for the little girl to hear me clearly, “it’s okay, we’ve all gotta go sometimes.” The little girl was in no way embarrassed, thankfully, even when another woman walked by and made a similar remark to my own. This was like right after my interaction with the French man so it was just funny timing, it never happened again after this.
The French guy reminded me of someone else I’d see around Barrie, a homeless man who I’d often see out in the sun on particularly hot days. He had a similar hair cut and facial features.
One day on my way into the Zehrs Market I saw this man again and for the first time approached him, asking him if he was hungry or thirsty because I could get him something from the store. He declined politely but mentioned basically that he was struggling, but I wasn’t sure what I could do about that.
I started paying close attention to many people like this in Barrie a couple weeks before this, noting how often I’d see the same people in pretty dire shape on street corners with nobody offering to help them.
There was a guy at the corner of Ardagh and Essa often who’d be talking to himself and staring people down; one one occasion, he was particularly irate, swearing to himself about people who weren’t around – I’d seen this type of thing while walking to and from work on Bay Street often and it always surprises me how many people notice these type of mentally ill people for weeks on end without offering in some way to help. Even me. I saw this man for weeks, never knew who would be best to call for something like this or if there was anyone at all you could call.
Thinking back on this now, I suppose the best people to call are your regions non-emergency line, because then they can at least casually drive by and check the status of the person in case they need something, but I imagine their hands are a little tied here too unless they catch them doing something aggressive or otherwise.
When I was in Zehrs I picked up some meats and cheese from their International Deli which I highly recommend, they had a great spread, and lots of Polish eats which was great for me, a Polish-Canadian. There’s a series of tweets that followed this which I’ll embed for you here:https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Zehrs is a little on the pricey side but you can get a ton of stuff there that you can’t otherwise find in Barrieland.
I definitely recommend it over other markets in the area, like the one at the corner of Ardagh and Ferndale called The Corner Market (in fact, I find the entire strip across from the Circle K for many ways suspcious).
Here’s a little bit about The Corner Market. And note, the photo on Google Maps here is of the Circle K, and not The Corner Market which has brand new branding/signage; and ironically they chose a very comical font.
I know a fair bit about safe food handling and I can tell you, what I witnessed in this store on this day is that these people who run it clearly have no idea what safe food handling is. Some stuff had noticeable freezer burn and some was thawing, in the same freezer bin.
Also, they sell a huge variety of foods which to me is always a bad sign; if you’re not good at 1 thing, don’t then go ahead and start trying to do 1 million other things just because you have the store space.
I couldn’t tell if this store was trying to offer European goods like Polish pierogies, English eats like fish cutlets, Alberta-raised beef, or something else entirely (where are pot pies from? England again?); There’s also a little stand where you can get hamburgers, hot dogs, and other “American” fast foods on the go.
It’s a very confusing store; I didn’t stick around, especially after I was approached by the store owner who saw me eyeing the Chilly Moose portable coolers.
I was familiar with the Chilly Moose brand name because they’re popular in the Muskoka’s; but I don’t own one, but the owner of the store gave me a little brochure which had some interesting information about the brand. Seems worth learning more about, could be a really cool brand to keep an eye on going forward especially as we battle the climate crisis.
The Sicilian pizza shop next to it (which is another odd place that also serves Quasadilla’s and other non-Sicilian food), and the Pool Hub place which has signage that match the Porn Hub branding (I, in no way, endorse Porn Hub and believe it needs to be thoroughly scrubbed for underage “participants”).
I’m just saying, there’s something to be said about truth in advertising, and these places prove that.
In the week before, and on Canada Day, I went on what I’ll refer to as a mini-crusade around downtown Barrie. Again, there was a lot going on so I’ll try to summarize these experiences as best I can.
On Trash & Recycling
As it turns out, not only are Barrie recycling and garbage cans few and far between, they are not well designed for most trash applications. Here’s what I mean:
This happened more times than I’d like to admit, but that says more about Barrie city officials who make these types of decisions than anything else.
Fortunately on this particular day, the gas station across the road was in the middle of taking the trash out of their own bins and the associate there let me offload mine onto his. Thanks dude!
On other days, these issues made me quite irate.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why there is so much trash all over Barrie. For one, it’s a pretty windy city because of the way it has been developed, for another, when the garbage people collect, they throw bins all over the place. I complained about this over twitter a few times, I don’t know if it did any good. This picture isn’t necessarily the best example, but it shows you kind of what I’m talking about. It wasn’t uncommon though to find these bins literally in the middle of the road, and it’s a busy street with a lot of foot and vehicle traffic.
And there were some weirder trash issues, too, that seemed very intentional and I’m not sure what they would’ve been all about. Like this one:
This one was someone trying to get cars not to use this parking lot, but that wasn’t outrightly clear the first time I came across it, with rocks and these tires in the way in a non-uniform way. Plus, this area is not very well lit at night at all, and what I imagined what might happen here often is that cars would try to pull off and turn around or check their GPS, thereby damaging their cars on the rocks. I moved these more than once; They kept moving them back, so eventually I stopped when one of the tires was branded “Keep” in chalk. That dude must have thought I was so annoying.
This one was more sinster though:
So what struck me as weird about this was clearly someone had come into this small area which is enclosed in a fence. There’s a water station in this same field so this likely leads to sewers below the glue above.
And what was extra odd about this is that there was unfinished food beside the sniffing glue. I say sniffing glue, but I otherwise cannot understand why someone would be eating and glueing things in this particular area, and then leave in such a hurry that they left both.
This stuff stayed here for several days after I tweeted about it. Again, I’m not saying something terrible happened here, but I am questioning what was going on.
And don’t take it personally, Barrie, I make these kinds of comments about the City of Vaughan, too.
This city is a trash heap. pic.twitter.com/a1OrRGdt5l— Crooked Forest 🇨🇦🍁 (@crooked_forest) July 27, 2021
On Lack of Water, Except for the Fountain
Open these. It is hot as hell out here. #BarrieWater if there is something wrong with your water, address it immediately. I don’t know if this is illegal but it sure should be. pic.twitter.com/UmqHxqWtDG— Crooked Forest 🇨🇦🍁 (@crooked_forest) July 10, 2021
I’m pretty frustrated by cities in Canada doing this throughout the pandemic. I understand why they did it at the outset when we were still learning so much about COVID-19, but now it is completely nonsensical. Especially when you consider how many homeless people and otherwise poverty-stricken people who are now out of work (or were before this happened anyways) need access to fresh clean water.
Plus, it gets crazy hot in Canadian summers and not having a quick way to get water for humans and pets alike is a big issue.
Meanwhile, while all the water fountains are turned off, the City of Barrie allows this fountain to run most of the day, every single day. Explain to me how that’s a priority and maybe I’ll shut up about the other fountains.
Back in my studio days I used to refer to myself as a “Studio Brat” which I think about sometimes when I see silly graffiti like this. Of course, I was in no way a studio “brat” but rather a great assistant engineer, but people are less threatened by brats.
But that’s neither here nor there.
On this day, I had been milling about the Barrie waterfront as I began to do regularly. Noticing all the trash once again all over the waterfront, I stopped to pick a bunch of it up.
The barrie waterfront is lined with a lot of rocks but of course that doesn’t stop kids and adults alike from walking onto those rocks and into the lake, and while I was in this part of the waterfront, I noticed some particularly dangerous stuff, like big boards of wood with nails in them which any kid could easily step on and would then require a tetanus shot.
Source: I stepped on a nail once as a kid. It hurt like hell.
I collected some trash and the wood and put it against this building. This is a water maintenance building.
I don’t know why but I find signage generally very interesting, especially on city buildings or schools; you know, things the public would come across just because it’s a public place.
Does anyone think it’s smart to have the above sign on this water maintenance door? Facing outwards?
Does anyone know what else chlorine gas is used for, other than to purify water?
These are questions for Google if you’re unsure. My point is, any city worker would already be well aware that this building contains this stuff, and so you don’t need to advertise it to the world unless you’re trying to make it easy for someone to get some.
A simple “Authorized Personnel Beyond This Point” suffices here, City of Barrie, although even that reads a certain way to people like me. Perhaps you can try something like, “No Entry”.
Anyways, so while I was here, though, this truck pulled up which I’m only now just noticing has… AZ at the top of it?
Kinda funny to me, but the reason I bring this up is because…. do you guys know anything about license plate naming conventions?
I learned a little bit about this from a friend of mine who once worked at a Discount Truck Rental facility in Vaughan, Ontario. Those letters and numbers actually tell you a lot about the vehicle and what it’s used for.
I’m not saying this one is wrong for the type of vehicle, because I can’t wholly remember all the rules and regulations he told me about this, but I am saying knowing what licence plates mean could be useful information for the general public.
I ended up speaking to the guy that drove this truck that day.
I approached him and asked him if he worked for the city (this truck is branded City of Barrie), it was one of those questions I ask that I don’t really need an answer to, but the way someone responds to it can tell you a lot about them.
He said he did but he didn’t want to make eye contact with me. I was in my bathing suit since I had been in the water picking out the trash, so I think he was doing this for his own protection, or something…
I explained to him and showed him all the stuff I had been picking up, making special note of the wood with nails. He didn’t seem interested in what I was saying, so I explained that the city should probably have someone come around to take care of all the trash on the waterfront. At this point he pulled out his phone to say he’d call someone about it, but I suspect instead he started taking video or me, or a picture. It’s pretty hard to do this in front of someone inconspicuously.
This man was useless. I ended up moving all the trash into a nearby garbage can and recycling, but the stick with nails was so large it was still a problem as far as I was concerned, poking out of the top of the bin.
But I decided it wasn’t up to me to handle this and I had already spoken to a City of Barrie official, apparently.
And on my way away from this area, I checked the taps outside the water maintenance building.
They don’t work.
If there was ever an emergency in this area where water would be needed from a hose, this building and those taps are useless. Barrie, is a useless town.
I don’t think it was the same day when I had my long crusade against the City of Barrie new lifeguard training team at the local public beach, but it was probably the same week.
I was already incredibly frustrated with Canadian cities in general removing access to their water fountains as you might have been able to tell from my story above this one, and I kept on this for quite some time.
If you’re wondering why I think this is an issue worth repeating: Water is a basic human right and so many people still to this day in Canada lack access to clean water; This is especially true of our Indigenous communities and it’s something I have trouble with on a core moral level. I just can’t believe Canada, with all that it’s claimed to be in my lifetime, would allow such a tragedy to continue in 2021.
There are a lot of issues we need to solve within the Indigenous communities and generally speaking, our poverty-stricken communities (of which there are MANY! Canada’s poverty rate is actually really high, you guys. Like really high!), but access to clean water seems like an obvious one to start with to me.
I had started riding my bike to the waterfront just for a change of scenery and because I genuinely love lakes.
On one day, I noticed a ton of strange stuff going on. Just the way people were behaving and the type of people that were downtown.
For one, I noticed a man with a dog on a chain lead. These aren’t recommended for a number of reasons and to me, usually indicate someone using the wrong form of training techniques with an animal.
But I didn’t suspect anything was wrong with this man or dog until the dog started behaving violently, jumping at the chain link the man was holding, snarling, and so on. It was clear to me this dog did not like this owner and for a moment I wondered if this man might use it for dog-fighting. It was “one of those breeds”.
The man at some point noticed me looking at him while I debated/searched/tweetetd about how to handle this situation. I’m a dog lover, but I’m not someone who necessarily knows who to call when you suspect animal abuse.
And nobody else was saying anything. And there were so many people around.
The man made a comment which told me he was pissed off with me, and I responded back in a way to tell him I was watching him and that he better cool it.
He got verbally aggressive with me, something to the effect of: You can’t tell me how to treat my dog.
I told him, something to the effect of: You better knock it off or I’ll call the city on you.
I’m not the type of person that’s ever made these types of “threats”, I had just become THAT fed up with everything going on. Genuinely prefer to keep to myself, I’ve got enough of my own shit to deal with, thank you.
We were yelling, and I made sure to speak loud enough for everyone around to hear, especially everyone with dogs.
He egged me on, and I took a picture of him and tweeted about this incident and the City of Barrie twitter feed told me how to report this. I didn’t formally report this, to me, it was entirely obvious where we were and since they had responded to me, I assumed they understood I was being serious. I wouldn’t just take a picture of a man and his dog for no reason from a distance.
After our argument I was feeling a bit more on high alert and a little pissed off, so I cycled away in a hurry knowing I’d come back this way to check up on this, because what else did I have to do anyways?
Do you have water on your tier?
There were an unusually high level of lifeguards at the local public beach (it’s not very big at all), and at some point I noticed there was a sign that there were lifeguards in training.
I didn’t know that when I started my crusade of course, and I didn’t intend to start one, either.
I had initially ridden my bike along the boardwalk, careful of course not to hit anyone or be in anyones way. I was a little nervous about being at the beach that day, what with how many people were milling about without masks on, and I, too, didn’t have a mask with me. (Generally speaking during COVID I keep a mask on me, but if I’m outside and not planning on speaking to people, I don’t wear it, I just keep my distance).
I rode along the waterfront for a while before I realized how thirsty I was getting. It was a hot day but I don’t check the weather, so I didn’t know how hot; When you’re by a body of water too, it’s generally more windy, so it would take a while for this to catch up with me.
As I began to ride my bike back along the boardwalk, a young lifeguard with curly blonde hair stopped me.
The lifeguard: Hey, I just want you to know because I don’t want you to get a ticket or something, that you can’t ride your bike on the boardwalk. You have to walk it.
I thanked the lifeguard for the info and got off my bike to walk it.
I was still feeling a little “alert” so my tone was a bit more direct than I intended, but I meant it, I didn’t know that was a rule here and there weren’t any signs that said so that I could see. But the rule made sense with all the pedestrians walking on it.
This next story I’m going to tell you happened over the course of the entire day, so some of the conversations may be out of order from the way I’ll recall them now.
At some point I stopped at a lifeguard tier (I don’t know if that’s what they’re called, but that’s what I call them).
I said: Excuse me, do you have any water on your tier?
The lifeguard replied he didn’t.
Okay. No problem.
Me: Do you know where I can fill up a bottle?
Me: You should probably have water on your tier though, in case someone is dehydrated and needs water?
I left, dealt with some trash or something somewhere else, and came back to the beach.
I approached a different lifeguard tier.
Me: Excuse me, do you have any water?
Lifeguard: I don’t.
Okay, no problem.
I approached another lifeguard tier.
Me: Excuse me, do you have any water?
I approached all 5 tiers on this beach, and nobody had any water.
I thought about this for a moment and then went to the Lifeguard station stand tent set-up behind the boardwalk.
A woman sat at the desk with a laptop and about 4 or 5 other lifeguards around her.
Me: Hi, excuse me. (She was obviously super busy you guys, based on the way she spoke to me after this). Do you have anywhere I can fill up my water bottle?
Her: We don’t have that.
Me: You don’t have anywhere I can fill up my water?
Her, annoyed: No, we don’t.
Me: Do you have any water in this building here? I need some water.
I was visibly dehydrated.
Me: Do you have someone you can call to ask them why there is no where on this beach I can get any water and why none of your lifeguards know where I can get water?
Her, very annoyed: I might have a number.
Me, annoyed: Yeah, could you get that for me?
Her, typing on her computer now looking for it:
Me: You don’t just have this information handy?
Her: No I have to look for it.
Okay, there’s a problem here.
She handed me a post it note with a number and I thanked her for it.
I left, for a short time.
Later, I returned and approached the first lifeguard stand where my curly-blonde lifeguard pal was.
Me: Hey, do you know where I can get some water?
Me: Do you realize that not a single one of you lifeguards has been able to pprovide me with water?
Him, something to the effect of: We’re just training lifeguards today and we don’t have that.
Me: I’m training you! (I wasn’t, but who’d know that?) You don’t have any water at this beach for me or any of these kids and families, on this hot day?
For the record, I am in no way affiliated with the lifeguard training program at the City of Barrie, but I needed to prove a point. I spoke loud enough for everyone around us to hear.
I said something to the effect of this is pathetic and made my way back to the lifeguard tent.
Me, loudly, to all the lifeguards under the tent: Excuse me does anyone here know where I can get some water.
They recognized me, and the woman stood up from her table for likely the first time all day.
Her: I provided you with a number.
Me: Did you call that number?
Her: Why would I call the number? It was for you.
Me: You’re here training lifeguards, I tell you that none of these lifeguards have water to give to people who need water on this hot day at this beach, and you haven’t called that number to do anything about it?
This woman hated me. I could see the hate burning through her sunglasses.
I was causing a scene now, and they didn’t appreciate this.
At some point, a woman who was enjoying the beach with a friend of hers interrupted us.
She handed me a bottle of water.
Me: Thank you!
I chugged it. And then I left for a brief time.
I came back later and approached the first tier. I was pissed off now.
I waited a moment while this lifeguard used a megaphone to do some announcements. He didn’t know what he was doing; yes, I know they are in training, but wow, you should’ve heard him.
He didn’t seem to notice I was waiting for him to finish as he asked his boss/supervisor/the woman who hates me, if he should repeat the message.
I felt like he was now wasting my time.
I interrupted him, loudly.
Me: Excuse me, is what you’re doing right now more important than what I have to ask you?
My point is, he hadn’t acknowledged a severely dehydrated and very red beach goer was trying to get his attention as he stood on a lifeguard stand.
The lifeguard did another announcement and I repeated myself.
Me: Do you have water on your tier?
He did not.
Me: Do you have a walkie talkie to contact someone if you do not have what you need on your tier?
He did not.
I moved on.
Me: Excuse me, do you have water on your tier?
They did not.
This was now a couple hours after I had first poised this question. This was the hottest day of the year so far, hitting over 40 degrees.
Me: Do you have a walkie talkie or cell phone to contact a supervisor?
They did not.
Me: DO YOU HAVE WATER OR A WALKIE?
They did not.
Me: THIS IS PATHETIC.
Me: DO YOU HAVE WATER OR A CELL PHONE?
They did not.
Me: WOW. YOU ARE LIFEGUARDS AND NOBODY HAS ANY WATER.
Me: Do you have walkie talkies, a cell phone, or water on your tier?
They did not.
Me: YOU SHOULD ALL BE FIRED. YOU ARE FAILING YOUR TRAINING.
Me, loudly, addressing the public now: PLEASE KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR CHILDREN IN THE WATER. THESE LIFEGUARDS DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING.
I repeated this several times as I cycled the beach.
At some point, another beach-goer offered me a bottle of water. It had been opened, but I accepted it, thanked him, and chugged it.
I was severely dehydrated for real and knew I need to go buy some water now.
I went to the first logical place, a little beach stand just like 20 feet from the beach after I had completed yelling at the lifeguards in training.
I waited patiently; there was 1 person being served before me.
And then the associate within the stand disappeared.
I waited patiently.
She did not return to the window even though it was obvious I, and now 2 people behind me, were waiting for service.
I looked in the fridge: Aquafina. Gross, but I’ll take it.
I stood at the window for some time before I had to call out to the woman working the stand who was hiding behind the counter within it doing god knows what.
Me: Hi, could I get a bottle of water?
Again, I was noticeably severely dehydrated. They were card only, or cash only, I can’t remember which, but in any case, I needed to prove a point.
This woman did not want to give me a bottle of water.
I explained I, and again, I kind of look like a literal child at times and today was no exception (I wore a tank top with Pingu on it), explained I was super thirsty and didn’t have any cash on me. I may have even mentioned the fact that the fountains were closed.
She said no.
This woman I instantly realized looked exactly like a friend of mine’s mother. Like, exactly like her. Sounded like her too, and I knew they frequented Barrie; they don’t live too far from it.
Me, now annoyed: Do you realize Canada has the largest fresh water supply in the entire world and you’re selling it for $3.50 a bottle?
Her: I’m going to call the cops.
Me, confused, but now very irate: Do you see how many bottles of water you have in this fridge and how dehydrated I am? Do you think I’m an actor, because I’m not. I will break into this stand if I have to.
Her, now actually looking concerned for the first time: I’m calling the cops.
Me, looking like a literal child something to the effect of: You don’t have to, I’m leaving.
Again, there were at least 2 witnesses to this interaction and like literally at least 1-200 of my beach escapades.
I made my way to a local convenience store to purchase water and pop with my credit card.
Dear City of Barrie and Lifeguards at large: if someone is dehydrated, they require water. Thanks, this has been an informal PSA (public safety announcement).
On Queens, Hooligans, Flying Monkey Brewery & The $5 Arcade
On one of my many visits to the downtown Barrie waterfront, I decided to treat myself to my first meal at a restaurant in like, literally a year or something. Like a stupidly long time since I last went to a restaurant.
I’m not someone who normally googles places per say, I just walk around and try to find something that suits me.
Hooligan’s was closed when I tried the door; I was hoping to try out its sweet little rooftop patio, and I enjoyed the name.
And Flying Monkey’s was too busy, plus it just seemed like an odd fit for me that day.
Across from the Flying Monkeys though is a place called the Queens Hometown Pub/Queens Hotel.
I wanted a patio where I could sit in the sun but also one that wasn’t too busy, and this place at that time of day only had like 2 other tables on the patio, so plenty of Covid-19-friendly breathing room.
When I got to the hostess stand, they told me I either needed to sign in digitally or on paper. I had already started the digital check-in procedure on my iPhone when they offered the alternative, else I probably would’ve done that.
It was pretty quick and painless though, but I try not to do everything on my phone, especially for stuff like this which I didn’t wholly understand why I needed to do it. She explained it, but quickly and briefly. The reason I would have elected to do the paper copy is because I know how sales generally speaking work, and that money is truly what makes the world go around. Many people cannot afford a smartphone to do this type of check-in, so I try to wherever possible now do the alternative to remind companies that there are other people in the world, too, that need these systems to remain in place. Like, forever.
As usual these types of places always start with the bar menu, but I asked for a water and a diet coke instead. I often order both at the same time. One for me and one for, well, me.
When the server came back, she brought me just a Diet Coke.
Server: Anything else?
Me: Can I also get a water?
It would be a few minutes.
I looked over the menu but was having a bit of trouble. It’s one of those weird menu’s where even though they have stuff I generally like, they’re full of weird toppings I don’t like.
And I don’t normally like to ask to modify my food much from the menu if I can help it. I figure, if they make it a certain way, it’s because the Chef knows what they’re doing, but there are just some ingredients I cannot get behind.
And then I noticed they offered a Wedge Salad which intrigued me and I’ll explain why.
When I was a teenager I worked at a Turtle Jack’s Muskoka Grill in Vaughan, Ontario; it’s a Pap’s now (whatever that is).
I initially walked in (after biking from home) with my printed out resume (which is how we did things back then) looking to get a job as a Server or Host, but they told me the Kitchen Manager would see me right away if I had time to sit down with him for a quick chat. I said sure.
He really needed people in the kitchen. I was mildly apprehensive, but I also know that it’s good to learn how to cook for yourself, and what better way to learn than to get paid for it. I’m an easy sell that way.
I left that day with a job as a line cook/pantry chef, without totally knowing what that meant. But I got a sick Chef’s outfit, like a legit one. This job paid $11/hour then, with lots of overtime.
I’d go on to work at Turtle Jack’s for about 2 years, learning the full kitchen line; pantry, prep, grill, fryers, and so on.
For the record, and not to brag about how rad I was at this job, when you work the “Pantry” section of the line at a restaurant like that, you are single handedly the most important part of the line and the one with the fewest allotted breaks.
Pantry means you handle the salad preparation, most of the appetizers because you also use the oven; meaning nachos, garlic toasts, quesadillas, any sandwich that requires toasting bread (which is most of them), using the grill as it pertains to those items (grilling chicken, steaks, and so on if needed for a salad for example), all of the desserts, which means you also use the fryer for any dessert that required frying, like Turtle Jack’s famous “Fire & Ice” ice cream ball, or using the fryer for things like making “Wonton-Like” bread for salads… I think you get the idea.
What I mean by you get the fewest breaks is that when you work a line like this you alone are responsible for your section. Otherwise, there are typically only 3-4 other people on a line like this who also need you to help them at times with items for their line; there is usually 1 person who’s on the grill exclusively (taking care of the entree side of grilling, steak and potatoes and things like that; sometimes they help you by taking your chicken or steak off the grill when it’s ready, but you are still responsible for enduring that piece of meat is cooked appropriately for your chit ticket), 1 head Chef who is making sure everyone else is keeping on their toes, and this person also handles the more dangerous stuff like stir-frys (as far as oil and fire is concerned, you see), and 1 person on fryers who literally just throws wings in the fryer all shift long.
As you can imagine, if you will for me now, yourself a guest at any restaurant, and you yourself order an appetizer, and entree, and a dessert; congratulations, you can thank your pantry chef for all their hard work at $11/hour.
The pantry chef is also the one who has to refill their section the most often; with new desserts, with extra 3-cheese dips that hopefully they’ve prepped enough of before the big rush started, with replacement cucumber, tomato, and other fresh salad ingredients, and so on and so fourth.
No breaks. Lots of overtime. And it’s hot AF in the kitchen.
And that’s all assuming the shift goes well and the servers and kitchen manager don’t start treating you like shit because they’re pissed off about something; “Make it again!” “This is wilted!” Anyway, I could talk about what it’s like to work in a kitchen all day but that’s neither her nor there.
Except it is.
So at Turtle Jack’s we had what’s called a Wedge Salad. At TJ’s, a Wedge salad is the dumbest item on the menu. Like truly awful to ask a very busy pantry chef to deal with this very stupid salad at any time of day, but in particular during the dinner rush.
A Wedge salad is first made by taking a full head of iceberg lettuce and cutting it, not in half, but like 75% of the way, and then again to correct the awful angle it’ll sit on so that it rests as flat as possible on the plate without losing too much of the iceberg lettuce.
And I can’t necessarily remember all the other ingredients but it does include 4 wonton (read: tortilla cut into triangles and then fried in the fryer) points, some blue cheese dressing drizzled on top (you don’t mix this salad for the guest), a bunch of vegetables cut in specific unique ways (ie. tomatoes in half, cucumber in quarters), grilled chicken, egg, and bacon and crumbled blue cheese.
It’s a hassle, but again, especially during the dinner rush as it has the potential to really throw off your entire line as your chits continue to pile up and pile up. (Chits are the little paper that come through your machine, which you also have to make sure doesn’t run out during your shift).
So when I went to Queens, and unsatisfied with the burger selection, I selected, for kicks, a Wedge salad.
I wanted to see if this Barrie restaurant made the Wedge the same as TJ’s did, and it wasn’t too busy that afternoon so I didn’t feel too bad about asking for it. Also their version was more my style; Ranch instead of Blue Cheese dressing for example.
So I wasn’t surprised when the server delivered the Wedge salad to me, on a plate far smaller than the one at TJ’s, and it was plated in an equally stupid manner.
This means you have to cut it up with a fork and knife, and hope to God you don’t spill it all off onto the table, like I began to before I stopped trying.
When the server returned, and I’m not at all sure if she noticed I had stopped “eating” so suddenly, I asked her if she had a bowl to mix the salad in.
She came back saying they didn’t have a bowl, and I started to reply at the same time as her: What about like a salad mixing bowl?
Server: Yeah, we just don’t have like a serving bowl for it.
Me: That’s fine, I’ll take the other bowl.
Any bowl will do, miss. Any bowl will do.
She brought out for me the largest salad mixing bowl I have ever seen. Comical.
I poured the whole plate in and mixed up my salad appropriately, as all salads should be served to guests. And then I did what any sane person would do, I ate my salad out of the giant mixing bowl. There is no way it would have fit onto the comically small plate they served this thing on.
I giggled about this as I wrote about it in my journal.
And then I noticed two very familiar looking people right across the street from me.
They had purchased some beers from the Flying Monkey and appeared to be on their smartphone looking to order an Uber, or waiting for a cab they already called.
Now why do I mention this?
It was a black man and a white woman; the same black man I saw at the bus stop outside of RVH (Royal Victoria Hospital) before I witnessed the “brutal” take-down of the guy that looked like my neighbour who also kinda looked like Jeffrey Epstein.
And the woman?
A shorter woman, also fairly overweight with her hair dyed in a unique way (read, showing lots of roots, obviously not a fresh do), who I had also seen at the RVH hospital, only she was inside it. Near the blinking lady.
Me, internally, while watching them wait for their ride: Or was she the blinking lady?
No, that lady looked like Brittany, a girl I worked with once. This short little half blonde looked like Maria, and old acquaintance.
An odd coincidence. Comical, some might say.
On Suspicious Things Being Left in Parks
So what it actually was, and I walked over to verify: a piece of clothing on the ground, a bag full of cookies in a way that I’d assume they’d be drug-cookies, and a child’s water gun.
Now you might not be the type of person to see this and call 9-1-1, but I did, and I’ll explain why.
After I came across this, which I just happened to be cycling back from the waterfront after one of my crusades about the lack of water, when I noticed a house full of odd people standing outside and I stopped here. I was initially going to continue down the road to the left of this parkette but then decided I’d change course and take the road behind this bench. Then I noticed the water gun.
There’s one thing I know about kids and their toys and it’s that a kid is incredibly unlikely to leave a toy like this after playing at a park.
And then I noticed the ziplock back beneath it which I took a look at; it had a sticker on it labelling the type of cookies – home made, obviously. And then I noticed a piece of clothing beside it.
I had a bad feeling.
Across from the bench, like directly across the road was a man sitting on his porch. He wore a #1 Dad t-shirt and was drinking a coffee, and he looked oddly like someone who my dad used to know.
I first looked down both roads to see if I could see a kid walking in either direction, but there was no one.
So I walked my bike across the road quickly to talk to the man on the porch.
Me: Hey, have you seen someone over on the bench over here?
I gestured to the bench.
Him: Actually, yeah.
Me: A kid?
Him: Yeah, and two crack head looking guys.
Weird of him to offer that up so quick without any further context from me, but I ran with it.
Me: Girl? Boy? What’d they look like, did you see?
Him: It was a young girl, she had red hair.
Me: How tall would you say?
I held my hand up for some reference and he sort of nodded agreeably.
That’s about all he remembered about her.
For a moment I remembered that I had just seen a young girl standing at the side of the road a block before us, but she had blonde hair; she looked like she was waiting for a bus, but wasn’t at a bus stop.
Me: And the guys?
Him: Crack head looking guys. Two of them.
That’s about all he knew about them.
Me: Did you see what way they went?
Him: Yeah, down the road this way.
He pointed in the direction I had just come and seen the blonde girl. I thanked him, and hopped on my bike in that direction to see if I could catch up with these people, if they were really walking in that direction.
I stopped about 2 blocks away and pulled out my phone to call it in, because I’m not a cop and if a kid had just really been abducted by two crack heads, it would be really stupid of me to intervene in the way I had started to.
I didn’t know if I was being “extra” about it, but so much about seeing that bench and what this man had said, and what he was wearing, and the fact that there was a bicycle sitting in front of his porch, put me on edge.
Nonetheless when I got on the phone with 911 I explained it exactly as I did to you just now; I explained what I saw at the bench and I explained what the man said.
Previously, if I’ve called 911 like about the BBQ fire, they’ve called back to verify my details. This time, I didn’t get a call back about this.
And then I tweeted about it as an added precaution.
The house the man was at was the one to the left of this one. I didn’t want it to be obvious I was snapping a pic of him.
This house is across the street pic.twitter.com/OR0lg6o5Ye— Crooked Forest 🇨🇦🍁 (@crooked_forest) June 28, 2021
I have no idea to this day what happened, but I’m hoping nothing awful.
On Bill & Deaf Rob
One whatever random day it was, I was cycling around the waterfront near the gazebo when a black man on a park bench sitting beside a white man motioned for me to come over to him.
If you guys haven’t noticed yet I have literally no friends now, so of course, I went over to see what was up.
They were enjoying some beers from a brown LCBO bag and the black guy started to ask me some questions about myself.
They asked me things like where I was from in Barrie and I explained I was new to the city. They asked me if I was just cycling around and I said yeah, just enjoying the day (it was a nice one, hot, sunny). The white guy wasn’t saying much, it was mostly me talking to the black man for a while who was older with a bit of an accent I couldn’t totally place.
Eventually he started telling me a lot about himself; that he had lost his dad some time ago, was from Jamaica and wanted to go back there, told me roughly how old he was, and offered me a beer which I politely declined.
At that time I also asked them if people in Barrie gave them a hard time for drinking in the park publicly like they were, and they said no. I was just curious, since this guy was black and Barrie is so white.
This black guy reminded me a little bit of another Jamaican I had worked with once at Turtle Jack’s Muskoka Grill named Courtney, just in the way he spoke and looked, so I figure maybe they’re from the same part of Jamaica. And funnily enough, while he was telling me all about his dad and Jamaica, I couldn’t help but think about that Arkells song “Drake’s Dad” and how the conversation I was having with this guy here might’ve been similar to the one Max Kerman allegedly had with some black guy in Nashville who said he was Drake’s dad. I’m not saying the guy I was speaking to is Drake’s dad of course, it was just funny what he was telling me totally out of the blue, but thats something a lot of drunk people do, share random personal stories.
At some point he asked me my name and I gave it, and I asked them for theirs, and I’m pretty sure he said his name was Bill (but if it wasn’t Bill, it was some other generic white name), and then the white guy introduced himself as “Deaf Rob” and explained to me he needed me to speak slower so he could read my lips and understand the conversation. He reiterated he really was deaf and needed me to do this, so I tried my best.
But then Deaf Rob also told me he comes to this park bench often to sit with his buddy here, and that he listens to him talk and doesn’t talk much back.
I found this bizarre, also because we seemed to be able to communicate more or less just fine, although at one point I asked him if he needed me to slow down my speech and he said I did, yeah, so I tried to slow down some more, but otherwise Rob didn’t speak to me too much because I think he could tell I was having trouble trying to chat with him.
At some point, while Bill was telling me his life story, and I shared a little bit about my life and what I liked about Barrie (I told him about Dominik when he was telling me about losing his father), Deaf Rob went over to the public bathrooms that are just behind this bench to do something; I assumed pee, but also because of the very odd encounter we’d had, I thought he might be up to something else entirely, like doing drugs or something.
To give you a better sense of the downtown Barrie waterfront and its visitors, they recently put in safe needle dispensers not far from where I was speaking to these guys.
Although I deduced they were more or less harmless to me personally, I told them I had some more cycling around to do and said see ya later, and Bill said he hoped to see me around again. I kinda hoped I didn’t.
But we did, about a week or so later, on the day I was cycling the Oro-Medonte Railway and ultimately ended up with a flat tire. I’ll be writing about that later, but the gist of the conversation I had with Bill and Deaf Rob on this day, at the same bench right near the waterfront gazebo, was they called me over while I was walking my bike by and, I went to say hi.
Bill asked me if I was the same person they had spoken to last time, and they were enjoying some beers again.
I told him I was (I had cut my hair at this point). And we chatted a bit longer, but about not much in particular because Bill at one point early in the conversation asked me where in Barrie I lived, and I sort of gave him a vague but semi-accurate answer of whereabouts I was living, and Bill said that was “too far” for him, which was enough for me to think, hey, maybe these guys aren’t so harmless after all, because I didn’t invite you and I definitely wasn’t trying to, and I got the hell out of there.
As I was leaving, another white guy was joining them at the bench with some more beers, who I said hi and by to quickly after explaining to Bill and Deaf Rob I had to go take care of my flat tire (because I’m not rude when I leave people, even when I’m wildly uncomfortable).
On Protecting the Wildlife & Environment (Trash & Recycling Continued, also Canadian Geese)
I’ll do my best. I’ll do my best. pic.twitter.com/m1WMsjWKnh— Crooked Forest 🇨🇦🍁 (@crooked_forest) July 12, 2021
While at the waterfront one day, a City of Barrie car was loudly playing some obnoxious sounds off a loudspeaker that rested on top of it.
Apparently Barrie does this to remove the geese from the waterfront, but it’s stupid loud, distracting, and confusing for people trying to enjoy the waterfront.
So I stopped by the cruiser to ask him what he was doing.
He got out of the car and stopped the noises for our conversation.
Me: Hey, can I ask what you’re doing?
Him (and it may have been the same water maintenance guy I talked about earlier): Well, I need to get the geese out of here.
Me: Using that loud noise, that’s how you do this?
Me: What’s so bad about the geese being here?
Him: Their poop has e coli in it and it can be harmful for people here and bad if they step in it, so I’m trying to push the geese away from here.
He seemed annoyed with me, but he was also kinda laughing at me for asking.
I wasn’t the only one around who wanted to know what he was doing, a few people had stopped to listen to us now.
Me: Is that really the best way to get rid of the geese?
Him: It’s what we do.
Me: Because of their poop, you said? That’s why you need to do this?
Him: Yeah it’s bad for people.
Me: Wouldn’t it be a better idea to work on correcting the water issues in Barrie instead, so that they don’t develop e coli? And you know that this loud noise is really distressing for the wildlife right? Surely there’s a better alternative?
The guy seemed to understand what I was saying but this was his job and how he was told to do it, so he didn’t care or offer much else.
Me: Just a suggestion, you know, dealing with the unsafe water instead of using this loud noise, annoying the hell out of everyone here.
I cycled off.
On Bear Creek Eco Park Sewage
I’d take a lot of walks in Barrie, as you now know, and somewhere in my archives I have some photos that better depict this which I’ll update accordingly (it’s below now!), but in particular since it was so close by to my place, I’d sometimes check out the Bear Creek Eco Park which is a really small trail system off of Ferndale.
And often times I’d see little kids “fishing” in there with fishing nets off the decks.
Which was weird because this was the most algae infested body of water I had seen in all of Barrie.
Like, parts of it look truly disgusting. Literal sewage.
I know algae is important to an eco-system but, not like this.
Anyway, somewhere along my Barrieland adventure accommodation, they closed this park and had lots of signage asking people to stay out while some trucks worked within it.
So don’t quote me but they were either finally cleaning it up or they were doing something else.
On The Salvation Army
This is another one of those really important stories people should actually read and perhaps read twice to fully understand what I’m saying, but I’ll do my best to keep it brief and simple for the busy beavers out there.
After reading about the Missing Indigenous and Murdered Children from the Residential School system, and seeing that people had begun to use a downtown Barrie statue for a memorial, I decided that was the best way to pay my own respects to these children.
For all that’s awful about Barrie they did seem to have a fair bit of things in the downtown waterfront about Indigenous people, or in general, Canada’s history as it pertained to the area, so while biking and walking around I felt like I was learning a little bit more every day about these things; where “these things” means, Canada’s sordid past.
I didn’t expect to get as emotional as I did when I finally stood before this several weeks after people had begun to add their own items to it.
There’s still a lot I personally have to learn about this but the fact of it all is that this is an absolute tragedy, where children as young as 3 (if not younger; there are still something like 138 residential schools to be searched and dug up for evidence of bodies), were stripped from their homes and families and then forced to assimilate and were murdered, abused in ways I can’t even imagine (one residential school even used an electric chair on children, so you know that nothing was off the table as far as types of abuse), all for the crime of… being born Indigenous, and having the unfortunate reality of being on what is now “Canadian” land when the colonists came to conquer them.
It should surprise no one at this point that I stood for several minutes at this memorial crying for people I never knew or met or have otherwise no ties to as a Polish-Canadian.
I ended up bringing a couple toys here as well, all while hoping that at some point the City of Barrie would be removing these items; shoes, clothing, canned food, and other things, to then give back to their own community which also would very much benefit from them.
Even as I laid my Gizmo doll on these steps, I suspected Gizzy would never actually be in the arms of a child, but I otherwise didn’t know how else I could contibute.
Except that I knew I’d be leaving Barrie soon, and having lost so much weight already, much of my clothing was ill-fitting but in otherwise pretty okay shape (even the really old stuff), so I decided to look into donating what little I could afford to give up.
I think this particular caption bares repeating so I’m just going to rewrite it a bit with my own language before continuing this story:
On Residential Schools: Parents are responsible for what happened. Some parents will go in front of the tank to protect their children while others will simply tell them what to do. Think about who you are as a person, your values, what you can contribute to the community. We are all born free and nobody can/should control you as an individual. Everybody is in the hands of the creator/God. There is a simple rule about the universe; What you send out is what you receive. (IE. when you do positive things, you will see positive change; if you do negative things, you will see negative change). Be nice and polite; Send out love (positive vibes only, folks!). Be honest with yourself and who you are, and never stop learning and growing.
I think whoever wrote this is an incredibly intelligent and empathic person. I couldn’t agree more with what they were saying here.
We all have free will and what we choose to make of that will has consequences, good and bad, that can effect us both internally and externally (in that it branches out to those we know, spend time with, or the neighbourhoods in which we live).
When I was a drinker struggling to get my act together, I spent a lot of time confused about the negative things that would happen to me as a result. I didn’t think of myself as a “bad person” but I didn’t understand that even the smallest actions or shortest conversations can impact people in a big way.
And it wasn’t until I began being truly honest with myself and what type of changes I needed to make within my own mind, body and soul that I started to feel like I was “righting” myself, or making a more positive impact; first on myself, and then, when possible, trying to help other people around me in some way.
Of course, as a 31 year old born and raised in this country, I had nothing personally to do with the fact that these children went missing and were murdered, or the ones that were sent to these schools and survived it. But I didn’t really start learning about how this problem manifested within Canada until very recently; I’m still growing, I’m still learning, and I often feel what I can only describe as sorrow for the fact that I waited so long to even care enough to read about these issues.
In King City before I moved back to Vaughan, I also donated quite a lot of clothing. I was trying to get rid of things that again, either no longer fit (having lost a fair bit of weight that summer, too), or that I just didn’t want around (gifts from my ex, for example). There, we had a couple clothing donation boxes which made this relatively easy although I was particular about which one I felt most comfortable donating into.
I expected Barrie to have these, too, but I hadn’t seen any around on my travels.
So I did the next logical thing and I googled for the nearest clothing-donation place that wasn’t one that re-sold the items (ideally), like a shelter for the homeless.
I didn’t quite find what I was looking for but I did find a Salvation Army. After hearing all the stories about people stealing from the Salvation Army donation bins (the loose change people that hang about around Christmas or the boxes they allow at cashier stands in stores) I was hesitant to donate here, but it seemed like my best option.
So, with 3 bags of clothing in hand and in my backpack, I pedalled on down to the Salvation Army in downtown Barrie.
The Salvation Army
Outside of this Salvation army is a wire rack filled with free loaves of bread, which I took as a positive sign: these people get it, there are a lot of homeless and drug addicted people in this city (it was very apparent to me) and having a way for them to get some food for free without having to explicitly ask for it struck me as a kind gesture; Not everyone likes to ask for help, worried that those helpers might look down on them.
So I put my bike across to street and locked it up (not to be paranoid but, I wasn’t about to leave it unlocked outside a Salvation Army in downtown Barrie), bag of clothing in hand I walked into the building.
When you enter this building you’re immediately in like a little vestibule area where there’s another locked door in front of you, and to your right, a little office almost like you’d see for a parking lot attendant where the receptionist sat. She had to remove a little piece of cardboard or something from the sound-hole area (which is actually like, when you need to exchange money or whatever, so not the sound hole that would usually sit up top but instead like a little space between the counter and the plexi) to speak to me.
And then I had an odd exchange. The first of several.
Me: Hi there. Are you guys accepting clothing donations?
I held up the bag for better visibility.
Her: We’re not accepting donations right now.
Me, confused: You’re not accepting donations?
Her: No we’re a men’s shelter.
Me, confused: I thought this was a — so you won’t accept any clothing?
Her: Is it men’s clothing?
Me: Well, some. Women’s and unisex. I have some sweaters…
Her: Because of Covid we’re not accepting any donations.
Me, very confused: Uh, okay. Do you know of anywhere else I can donate clothing? I haven’t seen any donation boxes.
Her: You can try the Elizabeth Fry.
Me: What’s that?
Her: It’s up the road it’s another shelter but it’s a women’s shelter.
Me, feeling like I’m getting somewhere: Oh! Do you know the address?
Her: Its just up on (whatever street I’m not familiar with)
Me, having already googled it on my phone and now holding the phone up to the plastic glass: Is this it? This place at (the address).
Her: Yeah that’s it.
Me: So they’ll accept clothing?
Her: I don’t know but; You’ll also have to call first because —
Me, realizing this is all bizarre: That’s okay, I’ll just head up. It’s right up the road.
It truly was like 3 blocks north of where I was so it just made more sense to go straight there. I thanked her and grabbed my bike and pedalled up.
While on route, I stopped to cross an intersection (off my bike now, because there is a steep hill here), and I noticed a blind man trying to cross the road as well. I began to walk over to him to help him across when, what appeared to be a homeless young man holding a Tim Hortons coffee, told me: I’ve got it! And he went over to help him instead.
You truly never know who will be paying attention when someone needs assistance.
Nonetheless, I also then noticed a woman stop her car across the road who was also beginning to verbally guide this man. I stuck around and crossed the road slowly to make sure this man got across safely; the young-homeless-looking boy did a great job and then carried on with his day, and so then did I.
The Elizabeth Fry Society
So when I got to this Elizabeth Fry place I was surprised what it looked like. Like, not in great shape, which isn’t great news for a women’s shelter if I may say do, not that I have any experience with them.
I quickly noticed that there was a security camera on the porch just above the front door; this made sense to me since many women in these shelters are seeking refuge from abusive partners.
And then I noticed there was a big wooden ramp for wheelchairs, so I decided I’d walk my bike straight up it.
And as I did that I realized this ramp in no way met AODA standards for accessibility and wondered how anyone with any modern day wheelchair could use this ramp, because even my little bike could barely make it up it without constantly hitting the sides of the ramp.
But we made it. And before I knocked on the door I decided I’d do the smart thing, given the type of building I was at, and I called the number first to explain why I was there.
Me, on the phone with someone from the Elizabeth Fry Society: Hi there. I’m here to drop off some clothing donations.
The woman from the Elizabeth Fry Society Women’s Shelter: We’re actually not accepting donations right now.
I find this outright disturbing.
Me: Really? This is a women’s shelter, right?
The woman: There’s a Salvation Army —
Me, cutting in: Yeah, I was actually just at the Salvation Army and they told me to try you guys here.
The woman: I’ll come to the door.
The woman that opened the door appeared to be Indigenous and she wore a mask.
The woman, something to the effect of: Why are you here?
Me: Hi, I just have some women’s clothing that I’d like to donate to the shelter.
Another white woman came to the door.
White woman: We’re not accepting donations due to covid.
Me, annoyed, something to the effect of: I just find it weird that in the middle of a pandemic with so many people out of work neither you nor the Salvation Army are accepting clothing donations. Surely there are people who need clothing here?
White woman, something to the effect of: This is a temporary place because a lot of the shelters have been moved out of the downtown area.
Me, confused, as I still very much consider this downtown, and it’s still a shelter: So do you know of anywhere I can donate anything? A bin or?
Her: Again because of Covid there are no bins.
Me: Not even bins?
Her: No because nobody is collecting clothing.
Nobody in Barrie is collecting clothing for the vulnerable people who require it. Not even the Salvation Army men’s shelter, or the Elizabeth Fry women’s shelter.
This was familiar to me. For a number of months, many places in King City were also not collecting clothing, so you could say I’ve been confused and annoyed by this problem for a good 7-8 months now.
I was getting nowhere with the Elizabeth Fry Society so I expressed something to the effect of: This is wrong, something isn’t right about this, and began to make my way back off the ramp in a hurry (I can’t recall if they were at this point so irate with me that they were effectively kicking me off the property, or if I was just so pissed off that now 2 shelters had refused my donations).
As I was leaving, a mini van had pulled up with 2 brown men and one of these men was now speaking to the other woman at the door.
And the back of their van trunk was open.
And they had a catering order, or what should better be described as, a food donation.
I was now deeply disturbed by the Elizabeth Fry Society.
The man caught me looking at him as I made my assumptions about this exchange and I said to him: Just so you know, you’re on camera.
He annoyingly replied, as though he was angry with me: So?
Me: I’m just saying, you’re on camera. And I pointed to the camera as I made my swift exit on my bicycle.
And where did I go from there? Back to Salvation Army.
But I didn’t quite make it there.
Instead, while en route, I came across a police cruiser with 3 police officers who were loading up their bikes onto the back rack.
Me: Excuse me?
A male officer approached me.
Me, not knowing if they were in a hurry although it didn’t appear it: Sorry to interrupt but I was wondering if you know anything about where I can donate some clothing?
I can’t wholly remember or exact exchange but it veered somewhere into him telling me about The Salvation Army and so I told him that I had actually already been to Salvation Army, and I’d already been to Elizabeth Fry, and neither shelter would accept any clothing donations and I didn’t know where there were any donation bins. I even had to at one point point out where the Elizabeth Fry was. At one point he took off his sunglasses because I guess I had a tone about my question and he was basically trying to tell me to chill, and I apologized but I was frustrated about it; I also took off my sunglasses.
So then this officer told me about somewhere else I might be able to take my donation.
Male officer: They’ve moved a lot of the shelters out of the city, but I think they’re accepting donations at the Comfort Inn of Essa Road.
I knew exactly where it was, I had passed it often and it faces the main roads.
Me: And they’ll accept clothes?
I didn’t want to waste all day cycling around looking for someone to take some clothes off my hands.
Male officer: Yeah, I think they moved some people in there so I think they should.
I thanked him and set off on what I hoped to be my final quest of the day.
To the inn!
I chose a random road I hadn’t been down before but assumed led in the same direction as the Inn when I saw something that made me break (literally, since I was on a bike, you see).
Me, internally as I approached it: Is that a… clothing donation bin?
The side of this clothing donation bin seemed to imply it was for an addiction recovery organization but that the items would be resold. Again I was a little disappointed that there were no places where I could just donate for free without a place re-selling the items (because of the whole, poverty stricken Canadians thing), but because I appreciated it was for addiction recovery, and I had finally found a bin, I threw in just 1 of my 3 bags.
And then I noticed that police cruiser with the bikes driving by.
Not saying they were following me but I am saying I pay attention to my surroundings.
The Comfort Inn
On my way to the Comfort Inn I couldn’t stop thinking about my previous interactions and the fact that during Covid-19, a global pandemic that has put so many more people out of work than ever before (maybe?) and many of whom were already sick or in shelters, the country I live in had seemingly abandoned their most vulnerable.
So I braced myself for another disappointing conversation.
When I pedalled up the The Comfort Inn I noticed that they had blocked off part of the Inn with pylons. There was also a large white van in the driveway behind the pylons. And there were 3-4 people outside who appeared to be volunteers. And there were a few men in wheelchairs sitting out front of the Inn chatting amongst each other.
I appeared to be in the right location.
I put my bike near the fence away from all of the people and approached with 1 bag of clothing in my hand. The first woman who acknowledged me was a blonde who held a walkie talkie, so I assumed she worked there in some way.
Me: Hi there. Are you guys accepting clothing donations here?
The woman, something to the effect of: Men’s clothing?
Me, confused again (what’s with the emphasis on men’s clothing?): Uh, well, it’s unisex.
The woman: We only accept men’s clothing.
Me: Well, I’m a woman but I wear both women’s and mens clothing and a lot of what’s in here is unisex.
The woman: What’s in there?
Me: Like, sweaters, t-shirts.
The woman: Well we’re not accepting it here —
Me: But I was just speaking to some police officers who told me you were?
The woman, changing her tune: Women’s and men’s clothing you said?
The woman: So where I’m from we have a place called ShareWare (I’m unsure if that’s the correct spelling and I never asked her where she was from) and they accept women’s clothing.
Me: Share Wear. Okay. So —
The woman: So I can take that for you.
Me: Oh, so you can take this? Great.
I handed her the bag and she gave me her name but it escapes me now.
Me again: So I actually have more stuff, will you guys still be here if I have more bags to drop off?
Her: As long as they’re bags like this (plastic).
Me: Okay, thanks.
Not sure why the bag should matter here.
She headed off in a hurry and the white van pulled out of the pylon area.
I still found this interaction super odd, but was happy to have relieved myself of another bag.
But still unsatisfied, (because why was everyone so adamant that it could only be for men? Does no one give a shit about women and kids?) I went back to Salvation Army.
Salvation Army, Revisited
I was on a mission now.
This makes no sense.
I didn’t even lock my bike up outside of the Salvation Army this time as I walked in with my last bag of clothing.
I walked in with purpose.
The same woman was at the desk.
Me: Excuse me, hi. Are you accepting donations for men, women and children today?
The woman: You can leave the bag right there.
She pointed to the floor beside me.
Me: Right here?
Her: Yeah right there.
I didn’t ask any questions. I dropped the bag, it thumped. I walked out and got the hell out of downtown Barrieland.
On one of my cycling trips through Barrieland, I saw another strange thing that, in trospect, I kind of wish I had investigated a little further, and it related entirely to the lack of services for homeless/vulnerable people in Barrie.
So why’d I take a picture of this car?
See to the left of it, how there appears to be a road or path?
I was biking up this road coming from behind this car when it pulled over here. I found it kind of random, but not too weird, given the area I was cycling in; there’s mostly old industrial buildings back here and this road is sort of a strange detour, so most people stick to the other roads, for sure, but of course at least the odd car might travel down here just as I had pedalled down it myself that day.
I had stopped pedalling to look at my phone for either a map or just to check the time on this day (because I hated leaving Dakota alone too long), when two people got out of this car. And this was the part that made me stop and take this picture.
They got out of the car and then just started walking down this pathway, and all the while, they said out loud: Food? Anyone over here need food?
Or similar. It was VERY odd, I’ve literally never seen anyone do this type of thing, and didn’t know what was down the pathway which, when I snuck a glance at where they were headed, takes a sharp turn but there appears to be some sort of house over here.
And they didn’t have any food in their hands. Or any blankets or otherwise, what I then assumed, were some social workers offering assistance to…. who, I don’t know. I never saw anyone else.
I have no idea what those people were doing, but I still feel like this is an important story to share; stay alert and vigilant at all times, you never know who’s around you.
I took some photos of these warehouses for 2 reasons: 1, they just kinda look cool in a spooky horror film kind of way, what with all the random blue doors everywhere which I assume is for better identification for people unfamiliar with the area when they have to visit these places.
And the other reason is this picture above with all this wood hanging out right by what is otherwise a very old warehouse.
I tweeted this one in to Barrie Fire if memory serves me correctly, because I found it a little suspicious, the placing of the wood.
I’ve pointed this out in Vaughan too, at Boyd Conservation Park, because it’s entirely too easy for a little pyromaniac to come by and set a pile like this ablaze, and entirely too easy for the wind to then pick it up and send those flames onto that warehouse building. It’s brick, but there’s wood too; fresh new wood you can see in the photo. Dead wood burns fast, but once its hot enough, like at a bonfire, it doesn’t take much to take over and eat up new wood, too.
With the wildfires getting increasingly out of control, I’m a little “paranoid” about stuff like this.
Also, it views as a total insurance scam in the making. Do you know how many businesses hire people to set their place on fire so that they can get money for it and start fresh? A LOT of people!
Have any of you seen The Matrix? Would you walk through this blue door, or would you wait for a red one?
On Disc Golf & Random Forests
Back when I was doing some marketing work for Metalworks Studios, where I’d be given flyers and brochures and things of that nature and I was told to just drive around to every music store in the GTA I could think of and distribute them on my “work days” (they’d reimburse me for the mileage, which is where I made most of my pay check), I got into a little habit of taking note of all of the different water towers in the GTA. Mostly this was just because I used these as a landmark to have a gauge of where I was in a city I was a little unfamiliar with, without having to keep pulling over to check my GPS on my phone (because that’s what I used to do, constantly, every time I got lost; pull into a parking lot, or a Timmies, and check my GPS before getting back on the road).
So one day I decided I wanted to bike over to the Barrie water tower. I could always see it from a distance from my neighbourhood because of the way Barrie slopes up and down, but I hadn’t checked out that part of town yet.
As I was approaching the water tower, which rests up a hill off the street I was cycling, I noticed that there appeared to be a small pathway that led into a forest.
And I’m sure you know by now, but Crooked Forest just loves forests, and we weren’t in any hurry although it did look like it might rain soon, so we hopped off our bike and decided to check it out. The picture above is from that forest.
One of the first things that caught my attention in this forest is that there were all sorts of little random baskets in it, and I’d never seen that in all my forest trail travels.
And then I noticed little signs like the one above. And I bring this up because I was suddenly again hyper aware that I was by myself in a weird forest in the middle of who knows where Barrieland and this realtor on this post had his face scratched out.
Which usually means someone was either really, really frustrated and just happened to take it out on this particular post and picture, or someone was really, really frustrated and hates this guy in the picture.
But then I heard some noise around me and put two-and-two together; this was some sort of golf course, and the baskets must be the holes. So I carried on walking my bike through the trail when I came across a couple people playing the course and felt a little better; I wasn’t alone after all. I didn’t want to interrupt their game so I went down a different trail where I found some more info on the course.
Anyway the point of this post is you just never know what you can find when you wander down a weird forest pathway by yourself, so try it out sometimes, but be aware that you’re super alone in a weird forest where no one can hear you scream; or maybe they can, if it’s a frisbee golf course. The point is you don’t know until you know!
This picture above is from the little park across from the cemetery where my friend who I told you about earlier, Dominik Adamek rests. I checked it out one day because it looked like it might be interesting, and I like parks.
Turns out that Barrie is what’s known as a “Bee City” and this is a Bee Hotel, which I think is super cool.
I’ve never heard of a “Bee City” before but fortunately there was some helpful information about this Bee Hotel right where the above sign is.
I just wanted to share some helpful information about bees here. They’re vital to our planet and ecosystem and they’re quite endangered, so if you’re able to build your own bee hotel, I definitely recommend it.
On People Who Abuse Dogs
I mentioned earlier about the man at the waterfront who I suspected might be abusing his dog, and it wasn’t the only time I noticed strange owners with dogs that appeared to need help in Barrieland.
Dakota and I were on high alert on these days when we’d check out stuff like this. This property which is just off of Ardagh Road has its own little pond and a place to sit on this dock with several chairs, which is what caught my attention first before I noticed all the signs about cameras which made me wonder what this house was all about.
I tweeted about this a couple times but I can’t find them right now.
Anyways one day, long after I did my little photos with Dakota here, I was simply walking by this same property (Ardagh is a pretty main road here in the Ardagh Bluffs) a car was pulling into its driveway, the first time I’d ever seen a car pull in here.
The driver had the passenger side window rolled down and, as was now entirely too common for me, asked me about Dakota.
At this point I had more than a few suspicions that people might be trying to drug my dog with bad treats, so I had started a new approach to these types of interactions.
This man in this car I noted to myself also looked like someone I used to work with at AMC Interchange 30 named Ian. Like, exactly like him, but a little older.
The man: Nice dog. What breed is that?
Me: A Bernese Mountain.
The man: What’s its name?
Me: This is Georgia.
The man: Oh cool, boy or girl?
Me: She’s a girl.
I was lying. People had been trying to get way too close to Dakota and I in these days and I needed to do this for my own sanity.
I kept walking at this point, weirded out by how much this guy looked like my old friend and the fact that he pulled up at this particular time and stopped to ask me about the dog instead of just pulling into, what you would assume is his own property.
That was just like a little side story, but what I really want to talk to you about are all the people Dakota and I would come across walking their own dogs (regrettably, I don’t have any pictures of the following interactions).
While walking back out onto the Ardagh Bluffs from a residential street one day, I noticed a large breed dog with a very thin woman. The dog appeared very thin, sickly even, and clearly didn’t eat much.
Me: Who’s this? (Gesturing to the dog in a friendly way).
The woman gave me a name but I don’t recall it. This breed looked like it could be a St. Bernard mix, but again, very, very skinny; you could see its bones.
I said something to the effect of: Looks like she needs to get some food.
I was being polite, I know many people rescue dogs from shelters or bad situations and didn’t make any assumptions about this woman until she replied to my comment.
The woman: You know, I put food out for her but she doesn’t eat.
Me: I would just leave a bowl of food out all day for her then so she can go eat whenever she feels like it.
The woman: I don’t want her to overeat.
Me, concerned: Yeah. Okay. Have a nice walk!
I took off; the woman appeared to be on drugs, and was speaking like someone who didn’t have any idea what I was saying to her. I hope that dog’s okay but I know she probably isn’t. I didn’t call this in.
One day while walking up near Essa and Ardagh, I happened to notice someone walking two large Rottweiler-esque dogs, but in a way that again, suggested this person didn’t know how to handle these dogs.
I watched them cross the street and then, in the swiftest motion I’d ever seen this type of interaction, a car pulled up to the intersection and this person and these 2 dogs were quickly pulled into it and the car drove off in a hurry.
I tried to grab a photo of the plates but I’m not sure I caught it in time; it happened THAT fast, I would’ve almost missed the whole thing entirely if I hadn’t already seen the person with the dogs.
I was nervous I had just witnessed someone stealing these dogs. I didn’t know what to do about it, so I walked home.
One day while in the same area as I’d seen the woman with the sickly dog, I met someone else who struck me as odd.
A man walking his dog who was having trouble controlling the animal.
We ended up having some sort of mini-conversation in which I was able to observe the way he handled the dog; this dog didn’t appear to like this man, and this man did not appear to understand how to handle his dog.
This was now such a common occurrence for me to see that I was at a loss.
This dog was not friendly and I suspected he might’ve also come from some sort of abusive situation; not implying it was this man, again, because I know that sometimes people who take these types of dogs in sometimes have trouble at first getting them under control, but I’d run into this man again at a later date.
The short version of our first interaction is that I made sure to keep Dakota far from his dog in case their dog would attack mine but we talked a bit about dogs and his behaviour, and the man’s responses to mine much like with the woman above made me suspicious of him.
When I’d later see him again he was with the same dog and with a woman who had a dog behaving in the same manner, meaning both dogs seemed to hate these people and hadn’t been taught how to walk properly as a well-trained dog would.
When the man saw me again, I’m not sure if he recognized me, but he said, “Which way are you walking?”
And I replied: This way. (Gesturing to the right which is where they were heading I was pretty sure).
And while I had this brief exchange with the man is when I noticed the woman mistreating her dog, pulling on his leash in such a way that again, made me suspicious of how or why these adults owned these animals at all. They clearly weren’t “dog-people”.
The man: Oh great, I’m going this way. (Gesturing the way I walked from).
I suspected he was lying because he was already crossing the road to head in the direction I told him I was going instead of just turning up the street.
Not knowing what to do about this given my limited information about these people, I carried on with my walk with Dakota.
While walking in the woods one day as Dakota and I did often, I had the strangest mini-convo.
I had Dakota off leash since it was a time of day I don’t normally see others in the forest, and he stays right by me so it’s easy for me to quickly throw him back onto his lead.
Up ahead I saw a bulldog/pitbull-like breed approaching quickly so I did what all sensible dog owners do and I leashed my own dog, moving a bit off the trail to get out of the way.
Behind the bully-pit was a woman out for a run and this dog was off leash.
She quickly caught up to the dog and leashed him, saying basically: Sorry.
I replied: It’s no problem.
She then said: Sometimes he’s not great with other dogs.
And then I was like, internally: So why the hell is your dog off leash?
Comparatively Dakota is fantastic with other dogs and very smart (he generally knows when to back off from an unsafe one).
And then, after she had passed us by only a couple feet (she was still running throughout this), she unleashed her dog again.
Me, internally: You know your dog is not good with other dogs and you know there are currently people in the woods with their dogs also off leash, and you’re running, not even beside him.
This is foolish behaviour. From this interaction on, I would become much more careful about letting Dakota off leash in the woods, rarely doing it again.
And that brings me to my last and final interaction about dogs.
While walking through a small park off of Snowshoe Trail (this is the street that leads onto Ardagh that I had those other interactions with), a man was playing with his 2 dogs, both of them off-leash.
This guy offered up some interested information without my prompting.
The man: Did you know you can get a dog licence from the city that only costs about $35, and if you have that and you’re caught with your dog off leash, you’ll avoid the $500+ fine the city might give you for it.
Me: Seriously? $35 dollars?
I’d never heard of licensing a dog in this way in all the years I’ve owned dogs.
The man: Yeah, and they do go through the forest and trails so it’s a good thing to have just in case.
I found this odd.
This man then also told me that there are other trails on the other side of town that weren’t at that time infested with gypsy moth caterpillar’s like ours was.
I also found that interesting, but carried on with my walk with Dakota.
To this day I have never purchased a dog licence.
And Other Tame Thingshttps://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Just cause this doesn’t seem as important as like, potential child abduction cases and lack of clean water in a Canadian city (or anywhere in the world), doesn’t mean it’s unimportant, okay?
What’s that look like?
When cycling around I’d come across super weird looking stuff. Some of it can be easily explained; like those Muskoka chairs above are probably some bored sexually frustrated dude on some drugs having fun with whatever he had on hand, and others are more difficult to explain.
Like this shack that sits behind an otherwise “normal” looking yellow house.
I know that things deteriorate over time and not everyone has time to get around to renovations, but check out how neatly the wood is puled beside it, and otherwise how “in shape” this yard is.
I’m not saying they do anything weird in here, I’m just saying stuff like this catches my eye; but the problem with Barrieland is that there is SO much of this type of thing, further reiterating that this town is in shambles.
One day I was walking or cycling through this area and had to take a picture of this.
But I also saw something weird, and had another strange Barrieland interaction.
There was a father pushing his daughter (I assumed) on a swing; normal, everything seemed Kosher.
I stopped my bike to pump my tires and take a quick rest in the park across from him where there was a few rocks I could sit on, and then I noticed some people, one guy in particular who had a funny shirt on (some silly phrase), and they had some kids with them.
And then I watched them change their kids clothing in public, and while this happened, the man with the silly shirt approached me with another kid as if he was checking me out, in a “what are you doing here” kind of way.
And I can’t even recall what he said to me, but then I noted that one of the kids behind him seemed to need to use a bathroom, and they kept changing clothing.
I started to wonder, again, if this was some type of movie set, but there were no cameras. These people felt sketchy, so I high-tailed it out of there (in the casual way I do, adjusting my backpack slowly and doing a quick check on my phone before casually leaving, while wondering what the hell these adults were doing with these kids and if they were even their own kids).
Which brings me to another weird story.
I have a video from what I’m about to share, but I won’t post it because it involves two children.
But the story is basically this. I rode my bike down a little side street across from my street that sits just behind the Corner Market plaza.
There’s a park there where I stopped one day to smoke a little bit of weed from my lil’ weed pipe.
While I was sitting in this park with Dakota, I noticed some adults carrying several plastic bags out of one of the townhomes in front of me. It was odd looking, because they were clearly headed “away” and have some other bags, but it seemed they were in a bit of a hurry with all the garbage and plastic bags they had with them.
And while this happened, a little curly haired white blonde-boy walked out of an adjacent house, with an even younger brown boy. The blonde looked like he might be 5 or 6, and the boy he was with, and holding the hand of as they made their way to the park beside me, looked like he might only be 4 or so.
When these two boys got behind me, they stood looking back at the house(s) from which they came, and then the blonde boy did an odd thing: he pointed upwards, as though he was signalling to someone in the house, and began jumping up and down, almost even mouthing the words “up!” to the windows. The video I have is of just after this happened, because I felt like this was so strange that maybe these kids needed help in some way.
And then those adults took off in a car.
And then that little blonde boy guided the brown boy back to the house. They never stopped to play in the park.
I had no idea what I had just witnessed but the whole interaction seemed incredibly weird, but I figured, actually, these kids didn’t need help at all, since they had gotten out of the house while these adults took off.
At one point, the brown boy looked at Dakota nervously and I told them not to worry, he was friendly. But the boys never spoke to me, and the blonde boy was clearly doing… something.
And for the briefest of moments when I looked at him I thought to myself how this young boy looks a lot like a boy I’d met before; the son of one of my now-former coworkers.
And then as I made my way out of this little complex, I walked through the middle of the row houses, noting that, wow there are way more apartments in this complex than it appears from the outset, and actually, the way the doors are set up, kind of look like a film set, too.
There are lower level apartments, main level, and stairs leading up to each house, and then doors in the middle of the row houses.
So at least potentially 4 apartments per townhome; which is, normal, but I’d never seen a complex like this before.
That’s the story there, it’s probably nothing but, I just happened to be there when that whole whatever it was happened.
I quit smoking weed for good shortly after this, not that it in any way impaired me, but because I realized that as I work towards pushing my art further into the world, I didn’t want to give any kids the impression that weed is good for them and that they should start, and since I was cycling and walking so much more, smoking just seemed counterproductive to my overall health which was otherwise feeling great without it.
Seeing all these other things in Barrie that were in such poor condition are the reason it felt so odd when I took my first couple visits to the waterfront and I noticed…. they’re giving this place a legit facelift, but only some places, and only one strip of downtown. It seems the priority in Barrie is just this one area, and all of these other photos I’ve been sharing with you are not very far from it at all.
Is This A Movie Set?
While most of the water-based ecosystems appeared to be in rough states, with the water lines receding quickly or, as I showed you before, being so full of algae you couldn’t see within in at all, the Barrie waterfront you see above looks… beautiful.
A lot of businesses here were being shut down, shuttered, or renovated; and a lot of other ones had just gotten brand new signage. And some of the types of businesses opening up seemed bizarre, from a priority point of view.
And a lot of them seemed to have unique themes, like this one, bringing a taste of New Orleans to Barrieland with a new “Bourbon Street” restaurant & bar. I don’t have a ton of pictures, but there were a lot of places like this that were freshly painted up giving downtown Barrie a unique new look, so it really started to feel like a movie set.
This place is also a hotel (smart when your whole business model is based off of “how drunk can we get these people”), and again, I just found the signage and look of the place pretty interesting.
How important is this notice?
You’d think they could have printed it on a bigger page and put it somewhere a bit more releveant, right? Like the front door, perhaps, instead of this weird little side window?
Unless they wanted people to think it was open and walk inside?
Can anyone else explain the logic behind this decision?
For the record, this note says: Due to Province Mandate amid Covid-19 pandemic closure has been experienced until April 14, 2020. We look forward to seeing you soon 🙂 Stay safe and healthy.
I guess they never re-opened? Again, why wouldn’t this be on the front door, though? And this place is… seemingly freshly renovated? Strange.
The light at this crosswalk takes so long to change that I regularly had to cross it without the light signalling me too, and on one occasion stayed in the middle of the road while an elderly man made his way across. Honestly though he looked like a total pro, a veteran Barrielander, no fear, clearly he’d done this more than once.
Meanwhile, in outertown Barrieland…
That’s in like a totally random parking lot somewhere. Found it funny.
And that one is just outside a sketchy dilapidated building. I don’t think it works, but they propped it up in such a way to attract people, doesn’t it look that way?
Stay tuned for Part 10 where we break down our daring escape out of Barrieland for good.
Thanks for reading & I hope you’ve been enjoying the story.
If you have any questions at any time, feel free to send me an e-mail or leave a comment in the comment section of any of my posts or social media channels.