As I headed into Griffintown to begin Lisa Gaisor’s “Sounding Griffintown” walk, I was flooded with some confusing thoughts. Mainly, being what I thought was familiar with Griffintown, I didn’t think that the walk would be all that interesting. Condos, warehouses, offices, and parking lots; that’s the Griffintown I knew. Thankfully Lisa, with the help of many old inhabitants of the once vibrant area, was able to broaden my perspective on the area and make me really take into consideration not only the old ways of Griffintown, but also the old ways of the entire city of Montreal. A truly enlightening experience, and there were a couple of moments in particular that I found especially jarring.
The first story that I found very captivating was that of the plane crash. Listening to the stories of people who lived in the neighbourhood where a plane crashed, killing 15, was very visceral to me. Having witnessed a float plane nosedive into a lake, I know first hand the intense confusion and fear that comes with witnessing something as singular as that. To imagine a situation in such a small, tight-knit neighbourhood where a plane comes crashing down in an attempt to land in the Lachine Canal is truly jarring, and were an event like that to somehow occur today there would be absolute panic and devastation within the city.
The second story, and my favourite story, of the headless prostitute haunting an empty lot was amazing. As a child I had many experiences with paranormal phenomenon, and to this day I still believe in the paranormal, and that I personally am privy to many more of these events than the average person. Hearing former residents laughing and recalling walking by the lot was inspiring to me in a very bizarre way, but a way that I was totally comfortable, and even happy with. I believe that the ghost exists, and if I go to that lot on the night of a full moon I will likely have an experience. Even walking by with my headphones on I got a little bit nervous, and could feel an electricity in the air. I don’t know if I would have had the same feeling without listening to Lisa’s project, but I like to think that I might have felt something, at least.
As far as the actual experience of the walk goes, I would overall rate it as positive. The historical insight was something you couldn’t get any other way, and hearing the stories first hand made it a much more personal experience. That being said, I had a little trouble keeping the pace that Lisa suggested. I have long legs, and tend to take long strides, meaning I usually walk much faster than necessary. It took several blocks for me to get the timing right, but once I did it was smooth sailing. I had a bit of trouble dealing with construction on the first block of the walk as well, the first turn off of Peel. I had to skirt around 4 burly looking workers taking a well-needed break.
I think one of the things that made the walk most vivid was the way Lisa decided to treat you as if you were walking with her. Since I took this walk alone, I feel that having Lisa there along with me really helped me focus, and kept my attention to the task at hand. I was absolutely immersed in the audio, and really felt as if I was in the Griffintown of old. When she said that she would meet me on the other side, or that she would catch up with me, while tongue in cheek, was a very effective way of subtly bringing the listener further and further into the world that she has created.
The craftsmanship of the audio tracks is absolutely impeccable. Crisp, clear recordings of voice, and effective and timely use of sound effects kept the walk from over slowing down or overwhelming. It was a perfect combination of sound effect, anecdote, explanation, and description, and it was all put together for a great cause; to educate.
Griffintown is not at all what it once was. As a symbol for Griffintown, there is none more poetic and apt than that of the St. Anne’s Church. Once a bustling hub for the Irish Catholic immigrants, St. Anne’s was a church that brought the community together under one roof. In this new, foreign land, they could all maintain their culture under one roof, once a week, under the eye of God. Much like the St. Anne’s today, all that remains of Griffintown are bits and pieces of what the area once was. I strongly suggest that anyone interested in a compelling and emotional walk through one of Montreal’s lost neighbourhoods take Lisa’s walk. Once you have, your perspective will never be the same.