Daily Archives: December 3, 2014


riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

Wander over to the shelf and pick up James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, open it to its ostensible beginning, and those are the words you join it at. It picks up in the middle of something. You find you are coming back around to wherever it was you were supposed to be, by way of “a commodius vicus of recirculation.”

I think that is a fine phrase for a detour.

Of course, every evening when I sit here at my laptop I make a detour: I turn abruptly into a particular word and inflate it like a balloon universe; I whirl around like an epicycle and, having had the tour, land back at my cluttered table in time (or a bit late) to head off to bed. But I had another detour today, on the way to work.

There is construction on Overlea Boulevard. There is construction everywhere in Toronto right now; there is no reasonable way for me to get from home to work without passing through a bottleneck caused by some – or going wide around it. Today, abruptly, and with barely any announcement, the bus driver decided to go around. He turned south, into a neighbourhood I see passing by on the right every morning but have never been in: Thorncliffe Park.

Some passengers on the bus were concerned. One young woman, whom I have seen on the bus dozens of times over the past couple of years but have never spoken to, a pretty blonde woman in her early twenties who sometimes applies her makeup while travelling but today was wearing a fur-lined hood, looked up and around, suddenly alarmed. I explained that the driver was detouring to avoid the construction. I reassured her that it would end up back on Overlea and back on its usual route. She smiled and explained she had been half asleep and had just looked up and realized she didn’t recognize any of it.

The route the bus took was new to me, too. It was fascinating to see this neighbourhood, denser than it looked from a distance, shops and schools and all that, almost more reminiscent to me of suburban south London. But I knew that the route was actually the route another bus regularly took. One bus’s routed is another’s detour – suddenly preposterous, out of order, even though all still there as ever. And then when you have toured you are returned to what you turned away from.

That is, after all, what detour is from: French détour, ‘change of direction’, from détourner, ‘turn away’. But after you turn away you turn back. You turn again.

Or after you have turned towards, you turn away. We turned towards the neighbourhood. We turned into it. We toured it briefly. We turned back. We returned. The tour was over. But I had seen what I had not seen before, and I will remember it, though for all I know I may not see it again.

And I had conversed, briefly, with a familiar stranger. The glass wall slid open, but just for a moment. When you ride the bus first thing in the morning you don’t want to have to talk, not really. You don’t want to incur a social obligation, an expectation to chat every time. You want to read or sleep. So if you talk with someone, it’s understood that it’s a detour. An open door of a house, walked past and glanced into, is not a house you have visited. This is still officially a stranger.

But a stranger you have spoken to. Just ever so slightly different. A neighbourhood visited once. All of a universe in the space between two taps of the tip of the tongue. Like wandering off the beaten path into a field. Like walking down the dirt road that runs west off Don Mills north of Overlea, between the tall flowers to an end at a declivity, convexing towards the valley, and then turning back to come to the street again. Or like dreaming briefly, or waking briefly from a dream. Perhaps, as with Joyce, a dream that took 17 years to complete. And then back to the origin.

Yes, tid. There’s where. First. We pass through grass behush the bush to. Whish! A gull. Gulls. Far calls. Coming, far! End here. Us then. Finn, again! Take. Bussoftlhee, mememormee! Till thous-endsthee. Lps. The keys to. Given! A way a lone a last a loved a long the