The tipster looks at me: “The battery is dead.” The young gentleman—the owner of the video—needed to go back upstairs to charge the battery on the device that contained the video. We wait. More small talk.
The owner of the video returns. He thrusts a device, a phone with a touchscreen, in my face. “Can I hold it?” I ask.
I crane my neck. It plays.
Here is what the video shows: Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, is the only person visible in the frame. Prior to the trip, I spent a lot of time looking at photographs of Rob Ford. The man in the video is Rob Ford. It is well-lit, clear. Ford is seated, in a room in a house. In one hand is a a clear, glass pipe. The kind with a big globe and two glass cylinders sticking out of it. In the other hand is a lighter. A slurred voice off-camera is ranting about Canadian politics in what sounds like an attempt to goad Ford. “Pierre Trudeau was a faggot!” is the one phrase the lodges in my mind. Ford, pipe in one hand and lighter in the other, is laughing, and mildly protesting at the sacrilege. He seems to keep trying to light the pipe, but keeps stopping to laugh. He is red-faced and sweaty, heaving with each breath. Finally, he finds his moment and lights up. He inhales.
Is it real?