Shame is what I feel. Shame tinged with remorse and the sickly smell of my own comeuppance. I am kneeling before you, great citizens of Toronto. I am broken, defeated, and overwhelmingly entertained. I was wrong and 383,501 of you were right: I should have voted for Rob Ford. I had no idea this situation was going to get so amazing.
Back in 2010, I ridiculed family, friends and colleagues -- anyone who voted for Ford. Merciless was my teasing. Menacing were my taunts. I would plead for Ford Nationals to re-up their psychogenic prescriptions because clearly they were dying of stupidity.
But you brave women and men of the inner suburbs -- you Nostradontonians -- you knew something I did not. Some of you act coyly now, hiding your voter history in the shadows of conversation, when you could be gloating, shouting from solar panel-free rooftops about your prescience. You baby boomers and Bill O'Reilly book buyers and Two And A Half Men admirers, you knew what I only just learned: Rob Ford is the best thing to ever happen to Toronto.
It's a quantifiable fact. (Facts, actually.) For example, did you know, and this is verifiably true, that both you and I have said the word "amazing" more times in the past four weeks than in the past two decades? Rob Ford is f**king amazing. Some say sloppy, villainous, cartoonish, criminal, despised -- no. He is amazing. You may stop denying it, the numbers are in.
Earlier this month, I posted some blather on my Facebook page and only now appreciate the significance of it:
My favourite aspect of the Rob Ford Conquers The World storyline is that even when actual news breaks of his reckless, often criminal behaviour, that news ends up not being the story. The story, 100 out of 100 times, becomes HIS RESPONSE TO HIS OWN MOST RECENT STORY.
Do you see the genius in this? Rob Ford is a pioneer. He has managed to create a political mobius strip. There is no beginning and no end to his cavalcade of skullduggery. Just when it seems the latest devolution will send him to rehab or resignation or some other form of doom, he sets the bar lower and somehow rises. He has defeated defeat. My mind is screaming from trying to process this level of political mastery. I've gotta re-watch House of Cards.
Former Toronto mayor, Mel Lastman, had flirted with international ignominy, but we're dealing with a professional now. Rob Ford has tied himself (and Toronto!) into every facet of pop culture, effectively becoming a puffier Kevin Bacon. He has single-handedly brought Chris Farley back to our lips and minds. The van down by the river! He has clearly brought out the best in Jon Stewart. He has rendered Marion Barry a footnote in the crack to politician corollary. Ron Burgundy serenades him. Porn stars with sweated hands glimpse him in the dark on their computers. A few more weeks of this and people may even learn to stop over-pronouncing "Toronto".
How did we as a city not register this would happen? At the least, we are collectively guilty of being awful talent scouts.
When I attempt to decipher where this level of ingrained hilarity and jiggery-pokery could have been birthed, I look past the swirling hot mess of his latest accomplishments, and try to dig at the bedrock that set Rob Ford on a collision course to being Toronto's prodigal son.
Peep this. His father and brother and son are all named Doug. That's an astonishingly bold commitment to Canadiana. It doesn't stop there. Rob and Doug and Doug Sr. all share the middle name, Bruce. You can't make this stuff up. Seriously, Wikipedia will erase it if you do.
Of course, even when Rob Ford buttons up most of his buttons, wipes the sweat from his engorged brow using -- I presume -- the middle of his own shirt, and gets to the business of shouting down his fellow councillors' suggestions, he still finds ways to reinvent the political wheel. Sure, his one claim of good city stewardship, that he has saved Toronto a billion dollars, doesn't come close to holding up under scrutiny, but that doesn't stop him from persisting. He continues his talking points unabated. Who cares that instead of his campaign promise to cut $1.2 billion from the operating budget, that this year's budget of $9.4 billion was the largest in the city's history? Nobody cares. That's the point. He has mastered every distraction technique in the book. A reporter digs too deeply into his claims? He'll just smoke some more crack with a soon-to-be murdered gang-banger. He's Penn and Teller combined. Rob Ford is Teflon. Rob Ford is Keyser Soze.
Those comparisons may be a tad harsh. Let's not paint him with too negative a brush. He also has demonstrated a Luther King Jr.-esque capacity to bring people together. After years of polarizing the city, spreading values of low taxation, loose-lipped misogyny, homophobic tendencies, privatized garbage collection, and the praise of Oriental work ethic and the rightful death of cyclists because they have it coming to themselves, he found a way -- glorious beast! -- to bring us ALL together.
Toronto residents can officially strike up a conversation with anyone in the city:
Hey, person mugging me, how hilarious was that Rob Ford comment about his wife's vagina?
Dude! I know! So funny. Tell me your iPhone password.
Thousands of these moments are happening across this great city right now. Even across the world. Rob Ford is uniting us all. What's next? The Koreas? Palestine? Jennifer and Angelina? Rob Ford Has Risen! (Though he'll probably need to sit soon because he's not in great shape.)
There is only one question left. How do we move beyond shaking our heads and smiling and shouting amazing! all at once all the time?
What I've learned about my T.O. in the past month is that it is still standing, still terrific, still mine and yours and ours. It is better known to the world than ever before and the world is slack-jawed, not just at Fords' Shakespearean miscues, but at how a city they know is filled with remarkable humanity has to deal with a situation so historically bizarre. This misadventure IS, like it or not, putting Toronto on the map in the way that all rarified global cities and entities achieve wide recognition: in fits and starts, from all press winding up equalling good press. Toronto is bigger than syrup and aboot jokes, bigger than just leafs of maple and domes of sky. It is bigger than Rob Ford. It is big and strong and energized and crotchety and ridiculous and sombre and wonderful and this is just another notch in our colourful belt. We will thrive and we are thriving.
And just like what this city is, fuel to some of the greatest senses of humour the world over, we have produced a political creature so sophisticated, so bizarre, so reckless, we should just enjoy his star while it burns so brightly, for soon, inevitably, it will be snuffed out by its own sheer brilliance, and we will only have thousands of hours of YouTube clips to remember it.
Rob Ford, should you be legally allowed to run for mayor again, though I may not have the courage of many of my neighbours to cast a vote in your direction, I most certainly will watch delightedly as you sweat your way through a seemingly endless string of awkward hallway press scrums and barely-veiled bigotry. You have taught me to accept what I do not understand. I love you, Rob Ford. I do not fear you anymore.
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