Democratic Party Animal

Why is Al Gore's post-concession bacchanal not getting more media attention? A group of Gore friends gathered Tuesday night at the vice-presidential residence to console Al on the final frustration of his life's ambition. Based on the crew from Madame Toussaud's behind Gore when he made his concession speech, one might have expected a fairly somber affair. And apparently, so it was, until Jon Bon Jovi got fed up and started inviting his friends to the "party at Gore's house."

As one might guess, when Jon Bon Jovi is on the case, you can assemble a pretty rocking party. Bon Jovi recruited Tom Petty, Stevie Wonder, and John Popper to form an impromptu Beatles cover band. Wyclef Jean was also in attendance, but didn't join in the music-making. Tipper Gore, on the other hand, did sit in with the band, playing the drums while Al cut loose on the dance floor.

If you think about it, this election boils down to a parable of hipness. On the one side, we see George W. Bush, a man who belongs not to his own generation but to his parents', a man whose election night party was to be headlined by Wayne Newton. On the other, we see Al Gore, child of the 1960s, whose favorite movie of last year was Being John Malkovich. Gore gets Jon Bon Jovi to play his private party; Bush gets cease-and-desist letters from Sting and John Mellencamp demanding that his campaign stop playing their songs at rallies. Neither of them is exactly down with the truly happening target demographics, perhaps, but if you had to pick one of the two for "The Real World: Washington D.C." from their questionaires, you'd go with Gore, hands down, right?

Well, you would, and I would, and that's why neither of us works for MTV. Al Gore is the guy who gets voted off the island in the fifth week, once they've weeded out the old and infirm and have turned on the boring. George Bush is the guy you want at your party: you never remember a word he says, but he gets everyone else in a good mood. Bush has always fit in, has never had to try for anything in his life. Gore has never quite fit in, always comes across as trying just a bit too hard. Look at their drugs: to score some coke, you need to know somebody who knows somebody, and once you've got some, you're the most personable fucker in the world, stumbling over your words, and everybody's best friend. Meanwhile, Al Gore is out behind the gym getting high with the other geeks, letting the weed take care of the tension he can't get rid of any other way, sliding into a comfortable haze and that longed-for feeling of belonging.

Looking at Gore, at his woodenness, at the goofy abandon in his eyes in that photograph, it's all so obvious. He's out there twenty hours a day trying with all his soul to be himself, to tell you about the causes that make him passionate, to shake that damn reputation for robotic behavior. And it's all no good, it never will truly work, and Al Gore knows it and that's his tragedy: that "real" Al Gore everyone's been looking for doesn't exist. There are some people who will never truly be comfortable in their own skins, and Al Gore is one of them, and they go through life never quite able to live up to our culture's standards of "natural" behavior. Look at that photo again. We all know what's going to happen: Al's about to clap on the downbeat.

It's a terrible burden, that sense. You can have wonderful friends, friends who know how to get you through the worst night of your life; you can have an important job, funky cultural tastes, a satisfying personal life -- you can have it all, and for all of it, you know you'll always be second banana, the butt of jokes, misunderstood and mocked, stuck with the curse of Cassandra: knowledge without persuasiveness. That burning fear is a terrific motivator. In every generation, it's the outcasts and the unhip who lead the cultural rebellion, whose overcompensation for their own discomfort makes them willing to pull in the temples on their own heads. Such might have been Al Gore's legacy, perhaps, but up to the very end he kept reaching out to those who scorned him, kept trying to play their game, to be part of their Cool Kids club, to tell them about this neat book he just read.

They ate him for lunch, of course, how could they not? They called him names and stole his election and stuffed him in a locker and got the hall monitors to look the other way as they beat him up until he went on national television and cried uncle. And then he walked home alone and went to his room and put on some of his favorite records. And wouldn't you know, after a bit, he got up and called some of his friends and they danced around and got some beers and had their own party, Cool Kids be damned.

My homage to Chase's homage to Al Gore, perhaps. I never got beat up, but even still I identify with Gore -- or perhaps I'm projecting. Even now, such is my legacy: how much more training in being natural, how much more hanging around the cool kids and pestering them to like me? That's always it, isn't it? That there are depths to oneself that one so desperately wants them to see, but no one is every quite looking one's way? 15'12'00