Skip to content


An Afternoon with Al Bore… I mean, Al Snore… I mean, Al Gore

“Wanna go see Al Gore?” I asked Mr. Pinault over breakfast last month as I trolled the Harvard Book Store’s event calendar for visiting authors who I could tolerate listening to for an hour without committing mental hari kari.

Mr. Pinault shrugged. I shrugged back at him. “Okay,” Mr. Pinault said.

Sure, we wanted to go see Al Gore talk about his new book, “Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis.” Al Gore enjoys worldwide fame and respect. He’s a leader in one of the most important movements of our time. He’ll be remembered in the history books, possibly in multiple volumes. So sure we wanted to go see Al Gore. But we weren’t, like, excited, like “OMIGOD, EFFING AL GORE!”

We arrived an hour early at noon to stand in line at the Unitarian church in Harvard Square. We wanted (and got) good seats. The man behind us in line installed solar panels for a living; the woman in front of us was an environmental science professor. Such cliched eco credentials shirked me a bit; I mean, yeah I’m a conscientious recycler, I take short showers, I support local farmers, and I generally eschew thoughtless consumption. But like 99.9% of Americans, I ain’t doing Earth any favors. I mean, I just bought a new internal-combustion-engine car last week, and I have the gall to go see Al Gore?

In person, Al Gore doesn’t look like Al Gore (see pictures below). Gone is the beard and the extra girth that he carried several years ago. He is graying and balding. He came out to semi-wild applause and warmed up the crowd with a story about how a woman approached him in California while he was eating soup at a cafe and said, “You know, if you dyed your hair black, you’d look just like Al Gore!” Big laughs. It’s funny because it’s true.

He then launched into an antecdote that began “I was on the phone this morning with the Prime Minister of Denmark…” Of course you were. You’re Al Gore.

The hourlong talk was, well… I don’t wanna say boring, because impeding global doom is a pretty engrossing issue. But Al Gore’s notoriously dry delivery is quite lulling. I got lost in his insights about alternative fuels, oil prices, economic security, blah. He talks as if a teleprompter is implanted into his brain, with a nondirect stare and gently effusive hand gestures.

Al Gore did come alive a little while discussing his solution to the climate crisis: Collective political will. “It’s important to change the lightbulbs, but it’s more important to change the policies… We have a democracy problem in America,” he said, explaining how television has supplanted the printing press as the medium for political discourse. “The average American watches 5 hours of television a day. And someone is making up for me.” Pause for laughs. He then explained how 80% of campaign funds are spent on television advertisements, an expense that forces candidates to turn to special interests and lobbying groups for contributions. “I’m not talking about corruption,” Al Gore stressed. “I’m talking about a serious defamation of American democracy.” And the distinction is… nobody goes to jail for defaming democracy?

Despite Al Gore’s lack of oratorial sizzle, I came away inspired. Everyone in the audience received a copy of Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, which contains lots of color photographs, graphs, and sidebars, like a textbook. After the talk (no Q and A! Boo!), he did a book signing. No personalizations, although he did say to Mr. Pinault “Thanks for coming out” and he did say to me “How’re you doing?” Fine, Al Gore. I’m fine.

Al Gore, Saying Something

Al Gore, Saying Something

Al Gore, Saying Something Else

Al Gore, Saying Something Else

Al Gore's Signature

Al Gore's Signature

This picture from Al Gore's book says a million words

This picture from Al Gore's book says a million words, one of which is "revenge"

Posted in Americana.

Tagged with , .