Tuesday, 22 March 2016


My obit of Rob Ford, the crack-smoking mayor of Toronto, is up at the Guardian online, you can link to it here . It ought to be in the paper paper Thursday. It was a difficult one to write for a number of reasons. First was trying to explain the nature of local politics in Canada in general and Toronto in particular; Ford was a product of the resentment of suburban Etobicoke to the city slickers of Toronto, or at least he played on that. There was the implied parallel with Marion Berry, which I left behind in the end: both were responsive to their core communities, but I couldn't make the DC situation a smooth comparison. And finally there was Ford himself, whose antics put Berry's to shame. Ford seemed to have little sense of restraint: his self-protection was mostly a bullying tendency after the fact. There were stories to tell, and I had to leave a lot of them out--not just the personal antics but also the scandals in city government, some relatively small, but the fact that they occurred with such regularity was incredible.

I did drop my pointing out the oxymoronic quality of the name of the Progressive Conservative party, and didn't mention the irony that Ford was succeeded by a PC candidate named John Tory. More importantly I was tempted to note the Canadian-ness of Ford's troubles: I did call it 'uniquely Canadian' to use a 'drunken stupor' to rationalise or excuse crack use, but I wasn't sure we could make that case (case of beer?). But his presentation at his inauguration by Don Cherry would explain a lot to anyone who understands the bizarre centrality of Cherry to Canadian life. Take a gander at Cherry's outfit that he wore to the ceremony; there is a gaucherie that is endured but somewhat admired in Canada, who after all live with versions of it rampant in their neighbour to the south.

Ford became a celebrity, for all the wrong reasons, in the USA...appearing on talk shows where he would be skewered predictably, and being played hilariously by Chris Farley. It may have reinforced some American stereotypes of the Bob & Doug McKenzie variety about our neighbour to the north.

We had a little trouble with his encounter with city councillor Olivia Gondel, who claimed Ford told her he wanted to 'eat your pussy'. Ford's denial was classic: "she claims I said I want to eat her pussy. I've never said that in my life to her...I'm happily married. I've got more than enough to eat at home." It was too brilliantly deluded to leave out, but I wrote it as was, knowing it would have to be euphemised. I suggested simply putting it in generalities (as they did) but leaving the 'I've got more than enough to eat at home', which would imply the rest.

Of course Ford's marriage wasn't that happy, though the drugs and booze probably played a part in that. There were three times police were called out, though no charges were ever filed. I think the Trump analogy might be a better one than the Berry...he was a spoiled rich kid, perhaps resentful of the 'society' types whose world he couldn't necessarily enter. What drove him to the massive indulgences, I can't swear, but there's a Nero-like quality to him as well, and an almost child-like softness to his bloated adult self. RIP.


Anonymous said...

What a douchey "obit". Hopefully someone writes something as pompous, insulting and childish when you die. Providing anyone notices or cares that is.

Michael Carlson said...

If you could read you'd notice this was not the obit: this is my telling the difficulty of not writing a douchey obit. There is a link to the actual obit at the top.