There was a birthday party for Rob Ford Wednesday, May 28, only he wasn't there - at least not in body. Maybe in spirit.
The mayor was supposed to be beamed in via Skype to one of his campaign offices in a Scarborough strip mall from the rehab facility north of Toronto where he's been reportedly drying out. At least, that was the plan.
The media showed to record the event, TV trucks and all. There was great anticipation in the lead up throughout the day. It's been weeks now since we've actually heard the mayor's voice since he committed himself to dealing with his substance abuse problems.
But the kibosh was put on Ford's appearance a few hours before show time by the mayor's campaign manager brother Doug, lest it look (yet again) like the mayor wasn't taking his rehab seriously. More likely it was all just a ruse designed to keep Ford's name in the news during his absence from a mayoral race that's looking more like a two-horse run between Olivia Chow and John Tory with each passing day.
Then, photos of the mayor allegedly enjoying his birthday with his kids and two unidentified women at a place called Crabby Joe's in Bracebridge appeared a handful of hours later on Twitter. Ford reportedly had a soft drink or two with his meal. Reportedly. Allegedly. With the mayor's peekaboo rehab it's difficult to know for sure. Was his Crabby venture another one of his supervised excursions from rehab?
Ever since he's entered rehab in a treatment centre in Bala, the mayor has become a figure in the abstract.
He's still making the odd appearance on Twitter but it's all very surreal taking in his wanderings in the nether reaches of cottage country from down here a few hundred miles away in the Big Smoke.
The proximity, or lack thereof, has lent the mayor's big, life-changing adventure (supposedly, we hope) an imaginary quality. Is he for real? Does Rob Ford even exist? He must.
More video of him was released yesterday from his late-night wanderings at City Hall following that drunken stupor at the ACC back in April. There was a mayoral debate at City Hall last week. Ford wasn't there for obvious reasons, but that didn't stop a good chunk of the time being taken up talking about why all those folks voted for him back in 2010, even though he's so obviously a screw-up.
Who knew the effect of Ford's prolonged absence, besides opening Toronto's eyes to the possibilities of life without the drama and distractions, would be to grow the myth surrounding him. By the time Ford comes back from his sojourn on the way to sobriety, if he ever comes back, it'll be like the return of the king. No, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Just when will the mayor be back to take up his run for re-election? Doug said Friday by Canada Day, July 1. It's the firmest date he's given so far. A few days ago he couldn't say for sure. But wait, isn't the July 1 long weekend a Ford family tradition up at the cottage? That's the excuse the mayor has been giving for years for not attending Gay Pride.
Scuttlebutt had it that the plan was to wheel the mayor out after Labour Day, a month or so before the municipal vote in late October for a glorious sprint to the finish.
Could still happen, except that behind the scenes Doug's telling people who ask that "you never know" when asked if he's running for mayor. Yup, the cake, the fake B-day party and whatever else Doug will concoct, is looking more like a carefully-crafted plan to string Ford Nation along for now, make it look like Rob's coming back, only for Doug to step in at the last minute.
We got a hint of that possibility a few weeks back when Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, the mayor's right-hand thumb, appeared on former CFNY radio host Dean Blundell's webcast to say, among other things, that he "hopes" Doug runs in Rob's place.
Mammo said other shit too during the interview about the mayor's wife and the possibility that Rob was a cokehead going back to his days as councillor. Yes, Giorgio is a stone-cold opportunist. But that only makes me believe him more.
It's like House of Cards Ford-style, with Doug in Kevin Spacey's role. In Doug's mind taking over from his brother would all be for the greater good. Everybody knows Doug has been the brains behind the Ford operation anyway, right?