If you haven't heard, this week Al Gore III, who is a corn-fed mixture of his two adorable parents, was allegedly caught going 100 in his Prius. The cops also found pot and a bunch of prescription drugs. I know what you are thinking, "Thank god it was a Prius." If he'd been in an coal-burning SUV with cases of Aqua Net in the back. His dad would have canceled Live Earth in shame.
But I'd like to take this minor tragedy and make a larger point to Al III.
Yes, Al Gore III, at what must be the toughest point of your life, I'd like to remind you of a man who was once down and out. This was a man who was beaten by hypocrisy and corruption. And this man was redeemed by his own unwillingness to let failure define him. That man is Al Gore, your dad. Yes, Al Gore, the man who either provided some of the genes or some of the environment that helped you become an addict.
You must have conflicted opinions about your dad since you actually know him. And I know exactly how you feel.
I love Al Gore...now. But it wasn't always this way. In the late 90s I was the typical jackass in my parachute pants listening to my Alanis on my pre-iPod listening device. And along with, "Who let the dogs out?" I kept asking everyone, "Bush/Gore, what's the difference, bro? It's like fighting over who had better harmonies, *nsync or the Backstreet Boys." That was a quaint fallacy that was spread and fed by Michael Moore, who I'll forgive when I get my single-payer health insurance.
But I put my mixed emotions behind me and stood behind your dad when it mattered. Now I'm asking you to do the same.
Let me tell you Al III, the night before your dad announced he wasn't going to run for President in 2004, he hosted Saturday Night Live, as you may remember.
Jeff Richards, a friend of mine at the time, was a featured player in the cast and, because of that freak twist of fate, I got to attend the show and the various after-parties.
The first after-party was held in some too expensive restaurant of the future that I'd never be allowed into again. It was a smoky mélange of SNL people, Gore people and friends of the musical guests Phish. That mix was personified by the actor John C. Riley, who is much taller than you'd expect.
In my friend's town-car on the way to the after-party, I'd heard that Kristin Gore, the younger of the two hot Goredaughters and a writer on shows like Futurama
, had written the best joke of Gore's monologue. After a sketch where he picks a running-mate in the style of the show the Bachelor
, Gore says to the camera, "It still pains me to think about how hard Kerry and Edwards cried that night. But I wish them the best, and I'm sure that they'll make someone a wonderful Vice-President some day." (It was a big laugh in a show of big laughs. Another highlight was a great sketch where Gore played the wonky accountant/big brother to Willy Wonka, portrayed by Jeff, who's Wonka impression is undeniably freaky and ingenius.)
On that ride over, I decided my goal for the night was to congratulate Kristin Gore on that joke.
The night becomes morning fast. The show ends at one and by three AM things are finally in full swing. Jeff went off to mingle. Without him, I was trapped in my observer mode. I watch, watch, watch. This famous person. That one. This woman leans over to kiss some man. Are they famous? Can you be that good looking and not be famous? After about an hour of being lost in my own hazy anonymity, I found Jeff milling around a pseudo line of people trying to shake Al Gore's hand. Jeff was near Tipper who was off to the side of Al meeting people on her own. During that week, both Tipper and Al had gotten to know Jeff by name. I walked up next to Jeff and said, "Introduce me to her, would ya?"
As the words left my mouth, I regretted them. Jeff immediately tapped Tipper on the shoulder, "I'd like you to meet my friend Jason. He's Larry Flynt's son." (I'm not. I'm Bernie's son, which is only embarrassing to me if you've met him.)
Tipper looked shocked, the way a nice mom looks shocked when you cuss in her kitchen. She scanned the room, presumably for Secret Service men to detain me.
To break the ocean of ice and insecurity that had developed in my soul, I said, "Did your daughter write that joke about making a great Vice President some day?"
"She did." Tipper Gore smiled in a way that made the room seem brightly lit all of a sudden.
"It was the best joke of the night." I heard myself and sounded like a stoned Eddie Haskell, which actually worked perfectly for that setting.
"You have to tell her that!" Tipper grabbed my by the shoulder and lead me to Kristen. I repeated my accurate but still asskissy compliment as Tipper stood by us to made sure we had an actual conversation. After Tipper walked away, we traded two or three more awkward lines as stared at the pleasant way her lips rested against her teeth before I excused myself.
"I'm going to get in line to talk to your dad now," I think I said.
As I waited, smoke dimmed the lights over my head. I felt crowded, alone, the only unknown person in the world. Basically I had one in a series of over a million crises of consciousness. As I pressed on my heart trying to dissuade it from racing, I asked myself, "Why I am alive? Why I leave my room?"
When Al Gore interrupted my crisis to greet me with his subtle but still shiny smile, my mind went blank. When I decided that I needed to speak, I decided I needed to apologize for not voting for him. Somewhere, some wise part of my brain vetoed that idea allowing to to say something pretty good. Something I will always be proud of for the rest of my life.
I what I said not only represent my deepest convictions but also revealed the deep and utter futility from which I engage this world.
I said, "Mr. Gore, please run. We need you."
This was before I had seen An Inconvenient Truth
, before Iraq had been revealed as the greatest political mistake in a century, before Katrina revealed the incompetence of the Bush government.
This was before I knew enough to know how bad we need Al Gore.
His smile faded into a thank you that told me, Please move on.
Of course, I had no idea that he had already taped an interview in which he annouced he would not run and the US would have another six to seven years of bad luck. That interview ran the next day on 60 Minutes. So, I just probably made him feel bad. Because deep down, even he knew I was right.
Anyway Al Gore III, I am still a proud Democrat, just like you and your father. Just like him, I will support the Democratic Presidential nominee no matter what. I'd be happy to vote for the first woman President, the first black President, but I would prefer to vote for the most qualified man ever to run for president.
That man is Al Gore.
So, don't worry about you right now, Al III. After you convince your dad to run, get a driver for a couple of years or just live on a carbon neutral cruise ship. Then do anything you want not to embarrass the Gore or the Prius brand again.
Just get your dad to run and all will be forgiven. Seriously, we need him.