Photo by Michelle Siu / CP Photo
Every half-hour on Tuesday night I checked my phone. And every time I saw that there had been no new news about our mayor, about his habits, about the people around him, about a video and about a murder that may not even be related, I exhaled a burst of relief. For that small chunk of time, I had been released.
The state of protracted crisis enveloping the office of Mayor Rob Ford has become as compelling as the man himself as we forage for metaphors or points of comparison to help us process a set of circumstances that seems both inconceivable and oddly familiar. People saying the situation is just like The Wire are starting to outnumber the people telling me I really must watch The Wire.
This month marks eight years since I first stepped inside Toronto City Hall, to attend a council meeting at which a proposed bylaw to ban public postering was debated. It was first-rate entertainment, with passionate people clashing over principles and ideologies. I loved it.
Since then, fascination with Toronto politics has grown from a hobby for aspiring policy wonks to a rallying point for political hipsters to a mainstream interest to a facet of popular culture to a globalized trope.
I used to be able to count on both hands the number of people closely following City Hall who were not professionally involved with it. Now we measure attention paid to our mayor by how much he outpaces the president of the United States in Google searches.
As late as June 2010 - midway through the municipal election - the idea of Rob Ford leading in the polls was so absurd that a staffer in then-mayor David Miller's office is believed to have planted a rumour to that effect for fun. (I was told, second-hand, that he wanted to test the laziness of the press gallery.) But as it gradually became apparent that Ford stood a real shot at winning, those of us who were familiar with him began to envision a City Hall in unprecedented disarray.
We never, however, expected this. Not until later, anyway, as disparate whispers began to coalesce into firmer statements that hinted at just how dark and troubling the saga would ultimately become.
I've learned how large the gap is between being sufficiently confident of something that you feel comfortable sharing it in private, and sufficiently certain of something that you feel comfortable publishing it. And that for an item to cross from the first category to the second can sometimes take years. Gawker's motto, "Today's gossip is tomorrow's news," is a rather optimistic timeline.
But we're sort of over the cliff now. People sometimes ask me what the next thing to break will be, and I have to say that, as far as this particular story goes, I really don't know. The possibilities seem limitless, and (though it may be ghoulish) I find this exhilarating. It could go off in any direction and peel back the layers from any number of things.
A few months after my first visit to City Hall, Madame Justice Denise Bellamy released her report on the Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry (aka the MFP scandal). It related, in narrative form, how one revelation led to another in the process of uncovering a broken system occupied by corrupt individuals. It is as gripping a non-fiction book as has ever been written about Toronto.
And its very first chapter kicks off with a Leonard Cohen lyric: "There is a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in."