Tuesday, November 05, 2013

When truth is stranger than fiction

I’ve lived in Toronto for far more years than I’ve lived anywhere else. It’s a pretty tame sort of place, even being the largest city in Canada (population: 2.7 million). To cut to the chase, it’s a pretty nice place to live, safe, clean – and interesting.

Since October 2010, though, Toronto has maybe been a bit too “interesting”. You see, somehow the city managed to elect the clown prince of politicians: Rob Ford. “Colourful” does not begin to describe his Reign of Error. However, this post is not meant to be political polemic. I’m looking at the fictional value of our current mayor.

At this point, I’m assuming that you’ve seen some of the worldwide coverage of his honour’s recent antics. He’s been publicly drunk on several occasions. There’s a video that apparently shows him smoking crack cocaine. The police observed him consorting with people definitely on the criminal side of society. And yesterday he called himself “the best mayor Toronto has ever had.”

My head is spinning from it all. This morning, though, I stopped to consider: what if I’d written what’s going on in real life right now in Toronto The Good (as we’ve been called) and put it into a novel, say something like The Rise and Fall of Rob Ford. I can imagine the reception it would get as it landed on an editor’s desk: “This is just too ridiculous. As a parody, it might fly, but it needs to be toned down. As a serious novel, forget it!”

I once casually spoke to someone at a convention who had conceived a thriller plot involving terrorists using commercial planes as flying bombs. He’d pitched his idea to several publishers all of whom turned him down because the plot was too far-fetched. Then 9/11 happened. I wonder what that person I spoke to is thinking now.

Right now, Toronto has a real-life reality show family basically running our city. Rob and his brother Doug run from one crisis to another, chucking around gasoline and then go on the broadcast media to shout how the conflagration is not their fault. Friends from other countries have been getting in touch and asking if what they’re hearing is for real. I have to shake my head as I’m writing my answers that it’s probably worse than what they’re hearing from their media outlets.

Could someone make up Toronto’s current “alternate reality” and sell a book idea to a big-name publisher? Kurt Vonnegut maybe. I certainly couldn’t. It would be too unbelievable.

And this just in: Rob Ford has admitted to smoking crack cocaine probably “in one of my drunken stupors.” Why didn’t he admit that back in May when reporters asked him if he had done what is supposed to be on the infamous video? “You didn’t ask the correct questions,” was his reply.


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