On Writing Lazaro’s Dream


I’ve spent at least sixty percent of my adult life walking around Toronto. Usually I pace a rectangle. From Bloor and Ossington, for instance, where I grew up, east through Korea Town and the Annex and Yorkville, south on Yonge, past the poster and bong shops and sports stores, west on Queen, then north on Ossington, arriving back on Bloor. Most of the time I walk at night.

Some things about walking through the city:

Walking through the city is like writing. Every five hundred hours or so something jumps out at you.

You can walk through the city for hours fueled solely by the steam of your thoughts, regardless of your fitness level.

A city is always partly a ghost-city, a graveyard; when you are walking through it, landmarks bring you back in time; you have a heightened awareness of people and places that no longer exist.

I remember when I met Angela and her husband Braden to map out the route for Lazaro’s Dream, on the east-side of The Bloor Street Viaduct. It was spring and we were all wearing sunglasses and the sky was a plate of pale turquoise: a colour from the 1950s. We walked to the middle of the bridge and looked down at the shiny car roofs moving slowly, in impatient stops and starts, atop the Don Valley Parkway.

We eventually mapped out a route that would take the listener from the bridge east along Danforth Avenue, into Greektown, and then release them close to the northwest edge of Riverdale Park. Our goal was to create a totally immersive experience: to instil multiple layers of reality onto the route as the listener’s imagination is guided step-by-step. I spent countless hours walking the area in the next few months, normally ending up on the front patio of The Black Swan Tavern on Danforth.

There is something extraordinary about the medium of an audio walk that demands of the listener that they at once submit and conspire. The moment that you put on your earphones and press play, you become an undercover agent, obeying top-secret messages through a high-tech earpiece; or a child, without parents, absorbed into the intricate architecture of an imagined world.

The mysteries and strangeness of the city deepen with each step.

- Jules Lewis